Three questions we would ask Neil Lennon ahead of Celtic vs Rangers
Neil Lennon’s press conference today is certainly going to yield some interesting answers.
There are major question marks still to be asked regarding the availability of Odsonne Edouard, Mohamed Elyounoussi, Boli Bolingoli, and Jonny Hayes respectively. All of us will be hoping that the manager is finally able to provide some clarity on their conditions today.
However, what about some of the other key question marks heading into Sunday’s Betfred Cup final against Rangers? What would be worth asking Neil that might shine some more light on our plans for Sunday?
Here, we provide three cutting questions we would ask the gaffer ahead of our biggest game of the season yet:
1. If Edouard is out, would you put faith in Leigh Griffiths to start?
Having Leigh Griffiths back in amongst things is great. He produced a positive contribution to effectively set up the move that snatched us the winner against Hamilton on Wednesday night.
However, his situation is an interesting one. He’s now been back for four games and has yet to start any. In his four substitute appearances, he’s yet to have been given more than 25 minutes of action in a single match (Transfermarkt).
But asking this question regarding Griffiths could be telling. If Neil continues to talk about how Griff still needs to be eased in, that could hint at a continuation of the surprising experiment that’s seen Lewis Morgan start up top.
The former St Mirren winger has yet to seriously convince in his recent matches despite the occasional flash of quality. A start against Rangers, however, would be a huge shot in the arm for him. Would Lennon risk playing such an unestablished star in such a huge game? His view on Griffiths could help reveal that.
2. Is it important to protect Jeremie Frimpong from Sunday? Or is he ready to be thrown in?
At face value, it looks as if Jeremie Frimpong is the favourite to start in the right-back position. He’s been given experience against some of the biggest clubs in Scotland such as Aberdeen and Hibernian respectively.
However, ahead of such a mammoth and high-pressure tie such as Rangers in a cup final, the only thing that could halt Lennon from starting him is protection. Is this a game in which we could do with shielding Frimpong from at such an early and youthful stage of his career?
Celtic do have a solid alternative in reserve in Moritz Bauer. Bauer has experience of playing in the Premier League, the Championship, and indeed the Glasgow derby back in September. We know how reliable he would be if given the nod, but it would also restrict our attacking threat down the right.
Asking Lennon this question would give us an indication as to whether he feels that protection is necessary. If not, there’s nothing stopping Frimpong from being given his chance.
3. Will we see one of Mikey Johnston or Mohamed Elyounoussi from the start?
In recent weeks, Lennon has taken the fresh step of switching James Forrest to the left in the absence of both Mikey Johnston and Elyounoussi. This has led to Ryan Christie playing down the right with either Tom Rogic or Olivier Ntcham playing in the number 10 position.
In such a big game such as Rangers in a cup final, we need to have players playing in their strongest positions. That means having Christie in the number 10 position and Forrest back down the right.
Elyounoussi’s fitness may be in doubt, but Johnston’s certainly isn’t. He’s now impressed in three substitute appearances out of three since his return. He scored against both Rennes and Ross County before smacking the post against Hamilton. He looks sharp and ready for Rangers, who he bagged an assist against back in September.
So Neil, are either of our top left-wingers ready to start? If they are, it’s certainly a boost for the likes of Christie and Forrest who would be able to return to their natural positions.