Ange dilemma, first start in over a month; Celtic predicted XI vs Real Betis

By Euan Davidson

September 16, 2021

Most of time, being Ange Postecoglou must be quite good, but probably not right now as he ponders his Celtic XI to face Real Betis.

Arriving in Seville today, the Bhoys boss was without some of his key men. Namely Kyogo Furuhashi, Callum McGregor, James Forrest, Greg Taylor, Christopher Jullien and Giorgos Giakoumakis. To be honest, making an XI from injured players is genuinely not far from a possibility.

Still, the Celtic manager has to conjure up something. Unusually for this season, the Celtic XI doesn’t just about write itself. If you wanted, you could tinker with formations, use Academy players and still not be entirely satisfied with a hypothetical line-up.

So what, dare we ask, will Postecoglou do tomorrow evening, as the Celts begin their Europa League campaign?

Here’s what we reckon the Celtic manager will go with against Real Betis.

A new dawn beckons for Celtic in Europe, as Joe Hart shows his class once again

Defence: the easiest part for Celtic boss against Real Betis

Thankfully, the start of this is relatively straight-forward.

With Joe Hart likely to take the captaincy, or at least be relied upon for leadership, it’s about who’ll be in front of him. And for what it’s worth, we think Juranovic, Starfelt, Carter-Vickers and Ralston will constitute the Celtic defence to face Real Betis.

Juranovic, predominantly a right-back, slotted in on the left against Rangers. He did a fine job, too, and while it isn’t his natural position, he’s more than capable. He also has a particularly important job, stopping Rodri Sanchez or Cristian Tello from cutting in on his left.

Ralston, on the other side, will likely face a similarly scary prospect. Sergio Canales seems likely to start, and it’s Ralston’s biggest individual battle since he took on (and wound up) a certain Neymar [Mirror].

In the middle, Starfelt is growing in confidence, while Cameron Carter-Vickers impressed on the right of the back two against Ross County. While there might be temptation to start Welsh, experience is really needed here.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

A midfield which could lack balance, first start in over a month

Ah, now. Here’s where it gets a bit trickier.

With Callum McGregor out, you essentially lose one midfielder who has two key functions. As a box-to-box marauder, McGregor starts attacks from deep and helps to co-ordinate the defence. When Joe Hart launches moves from goal kicks, it’s often with McGregor as the focal point.

In his role, we’re thinking Ismaila Soro is best-placed to step up. It would be his first start in over a month, with McGregor being played as more of a no.6 under Postecoglou.

Yes, he’s had a slower start than might’ve been expected. However, with Nabil Fekir to nullify, it’s a huge test for the Ivorian defensive midfielder.

Alongside him, with a focus very much on attack, Turnbull and Rogic will have to improve from Saturday afternoon.

With both away on international duty, they can be forgiven for lacking sharpness against Ross County. Especially Rogic, who travelled to play China and Vietnam.

But as two players who can unlock defences, Rogic and Turnbull has massive responsibilities. If they can make it work for Celtic against Real Betis, then it’s a great sign for the rest of the season.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

A make-shift attack for Celtic against Real Betis

The midfield looks like a settled unit in comparison to the attack Postecoglou is likely to pick. However, there are still real threats here.

The ever-impressive Adam Montgomery looks well-placed to start on the left of an attack. A winger throughout his Academy training, Montgomery only recently started playing in defence. We’ve seen he’s capable of taking players on, driving at defenders and moving through the middle when required.

Defensively, of course, he also gives us an option. When under pressure, Juranovic can cover an extra centre-back slot, with Monty moving to cover the Croat on the flank.

On the right, Jota’s trickery could be more than useful against one of Betis’ weaker areas; the left-back slot. He was fearless against Ross County, but his delivery certainly needs work. Can he improve against Betis?

In the middle, Albian Ajeti has a hugely important role to play. Of course, as a centre-forward who isn’t as adept at starting deep and making runs, much of Celtic’s attacking play will need to come via crosses and from clever passes at the edge of the 18-yard box.

Still, we’ve seen he’s clinical when given chances. He’ll be full of confidence after a brace at the weekend, and a European goal would do wonders for his long-term prospects at Celtic.

In other news: The Gameplan: Where Celtic v Betis could be won or lost tomorrow