Apart from maybe one or two players over the last few games against the Ibrox side, this current Celtic team has almost picked itself.
The only real debate we had was Giakoumakis or Kyogo up front and Abada or Maeda on the wing.
After the 4-0 victory over Hibs at Easter Road, we are now just days away from the league match away to ‘Rangers’ at Ibrox, and I can’t remember the last time the Celtic manager has had this amount of selection headaches pre-game.
Let’s work our way from back to front, looking at the three areas that as is stands, are likely to be the biggest question marks, at least in my eyes.
As we know, the last couple of games Reo Hatate has filled in at right-back due to the absence of Juranovic and Ralston, and he has looked very assured. He scored two goals and was man of the match again St Johnstone, and was also very comfortable against Hibs, especially going forward, but he did look shaky at the start of the match and got skinned a couple of times early on.
Against ‘Rangers’, he’s going to be up against Ryan Kent, and to be honest, I don’t fancy Hatate up against him in a 1 v 1 defensively, because he obviously isn’t a natural defender and he doesn’t have the pace to keep up with Kent.
Ralston is still injured and may not be fit to play, Juranovic was on the bench tonight having just came back from the World Cup, but with a January move looming, is he going to be in the right mindset to play in such a fixture? And also, would Ange risk him getting injured and scuppering a big sale? I’m not sure.
People seem certain though that Juranovic will com back in, but let’s not forget, Alistair Johnston is fit and available to make his debut, and has apparently impressed in training. It would not surprise me if Ange started him. I think he has the right temperament for this fixture, as well as the pace and physicality to deal with Kent effectively. I think we could well see a surprise start for the Canadian on the 2nd.
You can read what the Celtic fans on Twitter are saying about the possibility of Mooy playing at Ibrox here: Celtic Fans All Saying The Same Thing Regarding Derby Dilemma – Champions 67
For me, I think based on these last two games, with Mooy being awarded man of the match and scoring two goals against Hibs, that he should keep his place in the side, and McGregor as our captain is obviously a nailed on starter.
And as discussed earlier, I think it’s likely that Hatate will be moved out of right-back, and I think he will take his place in the midfield alongside Mooy and Calmac, which means O’Riley will drop to the bench.
Now, I’m not confident with that prediction, I can quite easily see Ange dropping Mooy to the bench and going with the usual midfield three of Reo, Calmac and O’Riley, but at this moment in time, especially when it comes to goals, with a grand total of zero for the season so far, O’Riley simply isn’t contributing enough to the team, not compared to the other three.
It’s that debate again between Maeda and Abada as to who will start on the wing for Celtic in the Glasgow derby, but this time, there is another factor to consider. They could very well both start, with Jota being left on the bench.
Something that would be incomprehensible to Celtic fans the last time we played this mob could now very well be about to happen.
Since the return of domestic football, Jota has been out of form and has been dropped to the bench by Big Ange for the last couple of games, which has resulted in Celtic looking much more lethal in attack, scoring four goals in both games, compared to just one and two in the two games that he did start.
Maeda was excellent against Hibs, and although he missed a sitter, he scored a fantastic solo goal just a minute later. His speed, aggressiveness and his work tracking back, could be very handy against ‘Rangers’ at Ibrox.
Abada is typically fantastic in this fixture, and of course scored two goals against them at Celtic Park already this season, but Jota is also typically excellent in this fixture and has two goals in his last two outings against them, but I just don’t think Maeda can be dropped from the left hand side on current form, and I fancy Abada to start on the right.
It’s going to be a very lively debate amongst Celtic supporters and pundits alike over the next few days in the lead up to the game, but that’s all part of the fun in the lead up to fixtures like this one.
Feel free to comment your thoughts below.