Settled defence, big role for Bitton; Team news and Celtic Predicted XI vs Bayer Leverkusen

By Euan Davidson

November 25, 2021

Celtic face Bayer Leverkusen tonight in a game that could hold the answers for the Bhoys’ immediate European future.

The Hoops are already guaranteed Europa Conference football after Christmas. A win or even a draw against Bayer Leverkusen, though, would set up a monumental show-down with Real Betis in December.

The stakes are high. At least Celtic have the security blanket of the new European competition. But Ange Postecoglou and his Bhoys know that form is on their side, and a 4-0 drubbing last time didn’t reflect their abilities.

Photo by Jan Kruger – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

According to the boss, tonight comes too soon for Carl Starfelt and Tom Rogic. The pair, who had hoped to return during the international break, are still a few days from being eligible.

Giorgos Giakoumakis, who came on to decent effect in both games against Ferencvaros, will definitely be out, too. The Greek striker will have a knee injury “investigated”. He’ll likely be unavailable for a while yet.

That still leaves Celtic with a healthy compliment of players to choose from.

Bayer Leverkusen have their own injury concerns [B04]. They’ll be without Bakker, Baumgartlinger, Fosu-Mensah and the suspended Demirbay. Florian Wirtz should be in contention, though; a scary prospect indeed.

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Celtic Predicted XI vs Bayer Leverkusen

Injuries aside, it should be a settled starting XI for Celtic tonight. In goals, of course, Joe Hart will hope to avenge Leverkusen for the four goals they put past him.

Helping him try to do that will be Stephen Welsh and Cameron Carter-Vickers, who spoke about his openness to staying at the club long-term. Given his contribution thus far, that’s excellent news.

In the full-back positions, Anthony Ralston and Josip Juranovic will put off arguing over the right-back role for another game. The two have been excellent, and there’s genuinely zero reason to swap either of them out.

Photo by Laszlo Szirtesi/Getty Images

In midfield, the rejuvenated Nir Bitton has a crucial role to play. In transition, Bayer Leverkusen decimated a Celtic side who weren’t organised enough to deal with counter-attacks. With a steadying presence like Bitton in there, who can drop back to defence, it should be a more secure unit.

Ahead of him, Callum McGregor captains the side, with David Turnbull alongside the skipper.

In attack, the Abada v Forrest argument is a compelling debate, but we’re going with the Scotsman here. James Forrest showed his match-winning abilities on Saturday night, and having Abada on the bench is a great option.

On the left flank, you’ve Jota have faith. He’ll be hoping to impress the club again in Europe, and add to his 12 goal involvements in all competitions. Up front, his pal Kyogo Furuhashi will be counted upon to lead the line, and conduct the press.

Your predicted XI in full is: Hart, Ralston, Carter-Vickers, Welsh, Juranovic, Bitton, McGregor, Turnbull, Forrest, Jota, Kyogo.

In other news: “You won’t last here”; Ange Postecoglou issues brilliant Celtic mission statement