Ahead of the game at Ibrox on Sunday, Celtic’s starting line-up is more than likely going to contain three players who looked out of the picture at different stages during the first half of the season.
Celtic head to Ibrox knowing that a win ends any premature talk of a Rangers comeback in the title race. The Hoops currently sit 13 points clear at the top of the Premiership having played a game more. Therefore, three more points at the expense of our rivals would more or less secure nine in-a-row.
And here, we take a look at three players likely to start at Ibrox who you couldn’t have imagined would’ve been doing so earlier in the season:
1. Nir Bitton
Bitton has been going through something of a renaissance in recent weeks after stringing together three consecutive 90-minute displays in our last three matches.
He’s taken advantage of Jozo Simunovic’s drop in form and injury problems to make the right-sided centre-back position his own. Occupying a back three that contains the likes of Christopher Jullien and Kris Ajer in it – he doesn’t look out of place.
Yet after starting at Ibrox back in September’s 2-0 win there, Bitton picked up a thigh knock that halted him from nailing down a starting spot. He went on to only make two starts in the following 22 league games, and was never a first-choice during that time (Transfermarkt).
However, with Simunovic out and Hatem Elhamed only just back from injury, Bitton has thrown himself into contention for a start on Sunday out of nowhere thanks to some solid displays.
2. Greg Taylor
Taylor was signed in the summer from Kilmarnock with plenty of excitement surrounding the deal, but it was a dreadful first half of the season for those who expected him to be a regular.
The Scotland international had to settle for effectively being third choice behind both Boli Bolingoli and Jonny Hayes. If anything happened to Boli, it was Hayes who often got the call and vice-versa. So much so that it only left Taylor with five appearances to his name come the winter break (Transfermarkt).
However, incredibly, he’s managed to jump ahead of both of his rivals after Boli, in particular, dropped the ball in December. Neil Lennon has placed plenty of faith in Taylor since then in the new 3-5-2 system, with the former Killie star making 11 appearances in 15 games since the break.
Nobody can say he isn’t a clear favourite to start at Ibrox. With Boli seemingly swapping direct places with Taylor, and Hayes a constant bench-warmer these days, Greg looks in line for a first Glasgow derby appearance on Sunday.
3. Leigh Griffiths
Not many of us could’ve predicted this.
After a slow first half of the season that had its injury and form problems, Leigh Griffiths looked next to done here. He was given nine substitute appearances and a full outing against Cluj towards the end of 2019. He didn’t score or assist in a single one of those games (Transfermarkt).
Celtic went into January needing a striker and brought in £3.5m-worth Patryk Klimala (Scottish Sun). With Odsonne Edouard also undroppable and Neil Lennon favouring a 4-2-3-1 at the time, Griffiths seemed to be on borrowed time.
But, like Taylor, Griff has seriously benefited from the switch to a 3-5-2. He’s struck up a brilliant partnership with Edouard that’s reaped eight goals in 13 appearances for him (Soccerbase). Even Edouard has been out talking about how good Leigh is too (Scottish Sun).
His hat-trick against St Mirren on Saturday has clearly made him a favourite to start at Ibrox. And, after everything that’s happened over the last year or so, who would bet against him scoring?