When it came to derby heroes back in September, every single Celtic player deserved the tag as we won 2-0 at Ibrox.
Celtic managed to get one over on Steven Gerrard’s Rangers as we secured our first win at Ibrox since the Liverpool icon was appointed as their manager.
So in an ideal world it would be the same again this Sunday in terms of the starting line-up, right? Well, not exactly. Due to either form or injury problems, you can pretty much bank on these three derby heroes from September not starting this Ibrox crunch clash.
Earlier this week, we spoke about three players who were frozen out back then but are likely to start on Sunday. And here, we take a look at the exact opposite:
1. Boli Bolingoli
The decline for Boli has been a steep once since September, but it didn’t occur instantly.
Indeed, the Belgian had finally arrived with his derby display in that 2-0 success. He was efficient, tenacious, and constantly winning the ball back for Celtic. He was part of a back four that didn’t give Rangers a sniff, and really helped to suck the life out of the Ibrox crowd.
Boli would then carry that form on for a couple of months too. Impressive Europa League displays against the likes of Cluj and Lazio had him well in the good books with the supporters. But something changed.
Boli didn’t look the same assertive figure that he did beforehand. A rocky December ended with a dreadful derby performance from the former Rapid Vienna man on December 29th. Since then, Lennon has given him one appearance against Clyde despite him being fully-fit (Transfermarkt).
Greg Taylor has since taken his place, with Jonny Hayes even looking like he’s ahead of him in the pecking order. Come the release of the team-sheet, Boli likely won’t be anywhere near the starting XI.
2. Hatem Elhamed
Unlike Boli, Elhamed didn’t arrive at Ibrox – he was appreciated well before then. However, that didn’t stop him from having a top showing in Govan back in September.
Elhamed proved to be a real powerful outlet down the right. He bombed up to get us into better territory often, with his strength proving to be a big problem for the Rangers attack. Gerrard’s side didn’t get any joy down Elhamed’s side all game, and the big man nearly came close to scoring too with a second-half effort.
Unfortunately, that’s the only derby game that the Israeli has played this season. He continued his own stunning form in the league, Betfred Cup, and Europa League campaigns immediately afterward. However, a nasty injury in November led to him being out for four months (Transfermarkt).
He made his return to the pitch against St Mirren on Saturday. He also looked close to his best too in his 10-minute cameo as he won a penalty and came close with an effort at goal. He’s finally looking like he’s ready to return to action.
Ibrox, however, is a different kettle of fish. With the recent form of Nir Bitton and the fact that Elhamed has only played around 10 games in four months, it doesn’t look like the Israeli will be in from the start on Sunday.
3. Mikey Johnston
You couldn’t not feel delighted for Johnston back in September. Beforehand, he had been thrown into two thankless tasks at Ibrox last season where he got next to no joy in two terrible team performances.
However, he made his mark back in September. Seizing on a dreadful Connor Goldson pass, the youngster slipped in Odsonne Edouard to give us a lead, and bag himself a first ever Ibrox assist.
It marked a stunning early-season run of form for Johnston. Yet, almost immediately, he was out with a groin injury that kept him out until December. He did return to action for a couple of months, but he struggled to regain his starting spot after Celtic moved to a 3-5-2 system in 2020.
Another injury set-back occurred at St Johnstone when he damaged his knee. Since then, he hasn’t been seen on the pitch and won’t be available for Sunday’s match.
Even if Mikey was fit, however, he still likely wouldn’t have started. With Celtic likely to go with two strikers up top, and Taylor looking like playing at left wing-back, Johnston has work to do.