The tricky choice Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou has for Glasgow Derby

By Euan Davidson

March 30, 2022

Imagine you’re Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou for a minute, considering his starting XI to face Rangers in Sunday’s Glasgow Derby.

Your team have been on red-hot form. Although Kyogo’s been out, Celtic just cannot stop scoring. Livingston, Dundee United and Ross County all blown away, with minimal effort. You’ve seen Jota come back to fitness and form, with his deliveries for Giakoumakis against the Staggies absolutely first-rate.

But then, you’ve also seen Daizen Maeda prove plenty of doubters wrong. Against Ross County, he started on the right and grabbed a goal, causing untold problems for Malky Mackay’s side. Before that, against Dundee United, he was a nightmare to mark, and gave Benjamin Siegrist grief with his low, fast deliveries.

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The obvious temptation is to start both. Maeda began the last game on the right of a front three, swapping with Jota about half-way through the first-half. Both technically gifted, both electrifyingly quick, both more than adept with a final ball.

But then, against Rangers in the last Glasgow Derby, Celtic winger Liel Abada was outstanding. He took his goal well, and demoralised Borna Barisic in a thrilling Celtic performance.

We haven’t even talked about Kyogo or James Forrest yet. The latter has proven himself to be more than a handful in these games, but there are players in outrageous form ahead of him. Karamoko Dembele has featured more often recently, and is another great option off the bench.

Ange Postecoglou, though, has to disappoint at least one player here. What on earth do you do?

Joe Hart declares his love for Celtic as a near-perfect international break ends

Joe Hart declares his love for Celtic as a near-perfect international break ends
67 Hail Hail (Youtube)

Celtic manager Postecoglou has real quandary for Rangers trip

Now, we talk about “selection problems” in the context of injuries, normally. To discuss them like this is an utter luxury. Whoever Celtic start with, there’ll be game-changers amongst the substitutes who can win a tie on their own.

With 14 goals and 11 assists, Liel Abada should be a shoe-in, based on form [Transfermarkt]. While travelling fatigue hasn’t been a problem for Celtic this season, it’s him, rather than Maeda or Jota, who’s been out of Glasgow over the last two weeks. That could be a factor.

Jota, who’s up to 20 goal contributions for the season, caused James Tavernier nightmares at Celtic Park. He’s also adept at playing on the right, though, and his ability to seamlessly switch wings is a major bonus. Ditto Daizen Maeda. Against Ross County, it just worked.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Maeda and Jota, as well as the full-backs Taylor and Juranovic, combined for a remarkable 41 crosses against the Staggies [WhoScored?]. In a system that overloads on one side, leaving the other flank free for a winger to take on their defender one-on-one, both Maeda and Jota exhibited the pace to get balls into the box. Needless to say, Giakoumakis scored twice from crosses, so it worked.

A lot of problems caused against Rangers in February were from crosses. Whether it was Giakouamkis unsettling defenders, second balls or opportunities from corners, the approach worked. That, however, was with Abada in the side. There’s another issue.

Either way, the result is the same; you get two lightning-quick wingers with a fantastic final ball and the ability to cut inside and drag markers out of position.

It’s just narrowing it down to 2 for Celtic against Rangers on Sunday that’s the tricky part.

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