Big call in defence, much-needed continuity; Celtic Predicted XI v Hibernian

By Euan Davidson

October 27, 2021

Celtic face Hibernian at Easter Road tonight, and to use an old and worn cliché, it is not a happy hunting ground.

The Bhoys haven’t bested Hibs away in the league since 2014. If that doesn’t feel too long ago, bear in mind the scorers: Commons, van Dijk and Pukki. Britain was in the EU. The idea of Donald Trump or Boris Johnson being world leaders seemed remote.

It was a quaint, more innocent time. But Celtic have the tools to break this unwanted streak at long last. Our away form has picked up, while Hibs aren’t exactly great shakes at the moment.

Photo by Ewan Bootman/NurPhoto via Getty Images

But: more clichés. There are always goals in this game. Form goes out the window. It’s true though; the Hibees have an innate ability to make life hard for Celtic.

So, who does Ange Postecoglou line up to make his own bit of Celtic history tonight?

Let’s have a look; here’s who we have starting for Celtic against Hibernian at Easter Road tonight.

Anton McElhone’s influence at Celtic is already being felt

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The same defence for Celtic in consecutive matches? It really could happen

Obviously, Joe Hart starts. Tonight, though, we think he’ll have a unique luxury; a consistent defence from game to game.

Injuries have hampered Postecoglou’s ability to play the exact same back four in consecutive matches. Tonight, he might get to. Neither Anthony Ralston nor Josip Juranovic need to be dropped. In the middle, Carl Starfelt and Cameron Carter-Vickers have formed one of the league’s better central pairings.

Instead of “Kamikaze” defending, Celtic have been robust in recent matches, only conceding to Aberdeen in our last four. Ange Postecoglou may not be doing cartwheels when we get a clean sheet, but it shows enormous progress.

This Celtic side can keep Hibs quiet in front of goal. But will they?

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

For Celtic, this Hibernian clash can be won in the midfield

The continued evolution of Callum McGregor as a number 6 has been what’s made this midfield work.

Strictly speaking, I’m still not 100% convinced by the David Turnbull and Tom Rogic partnership. But we’re winning games; why change it? There’s so much creativity there, but we’re probably still waiting for that combination to really dominate a game.

A lot of our creative production has come from the wings. Nothing specifically wrong with that of course, but with essentially two number 10s in our midfield, you’d hope either player would be contributing more in terms of goals and assists.

Maybe tonight will be the night. The temptation to play a more natural defensive midfielder will be there, but Postecoglou has the opportunity to build some momentum across the pitch.

That very much includes the midfield.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

For Celtic striker Giorgos Giakoumakis, Hibernian could be a big opportunity

Let’s be clear, Ange has options.

That was proven on Saturday. All of Kyogo, Jota, Giakoumakis, Ajeti, Johnston and Liel Abada played against St Johnstone [Fotmob]. The front-three that starts is unlikely to be the same one that finishes.

Therefore, again, there’s nothing wrong with continuity here. Kyogo Furuhashi on the right was an interesting one, although he didn’t have his most effectual game. But alongside Giorgos Giakoumakis and Jota, there are moving parts there.

Jota and Kyogo can so easily rotate sides, with Giakoumakis hoping to make it two goals in two starts for the Bhoys. We know he can score; it’s the principal reason he was signed.

In terms of individual battles, Giakoumakis could be excellent foil for the returning Ryan Porteous. Hibs have physicality at the back; there’s sense, then, in either confronting that head-on or having diminutive runners to bypass the lankier Hibs defenders.

Head-on sounds about right, though. It’s a big opportunity for Giakoumakis.

Read more: Celtic boss Postecoglou praises Anthony Ralston amidst contract talks