As we gear up for yet another anxious trip to Scotland’s North East coast on Sunday, it will be interesting to see how Ange Postecoglou sets up and which personnel he chooses to face Aberdeen.
In my opinion, ‘The Battle of Pittodrie’ will be won or lost in the middle of the park come Sunday afternoon. With our old captain, Scott Brown, and a tenacious Lewis Ferguson, Aberdeen will be more than a match for Celtic.
As I had written in the aftermath of the walloping we received at the hands of Bayer Leverkusen, Turnbull and Rogic have been largely ineffectual for the past while. Thursday night merely highlighted this fact due to the pedigree and quality of the opposition we faced.
Sunday, in itself, will present a significantly different sort of challenge. Aberdeen have made a really poor start to the league season, and this will only exacerbate their desperation and desire to get something from this match against Celtic – especially at home.
Their fans will be demanding a performance, just as we wanted against the Germans the other night. This has a dangerous mixture brooding for Ange and the team. A game that could so easily get out of hand if we are not extremely prepared and vigilant in our play.
On Thursday, my big gripe was the lack of defensive cover and input Turnbull and Rogic put into the game. At times, they essentially left Callum to play himself against that effective and slick Bayer midfield. As a result of this, I wonder if Ange is – like a lot of the rest of us – contemplating putting more steel in the midfield come kick-off time tomorrow.
Brown, although past his best, can still be highly competitive and competent at sweeping up the second ball, whilst providing an edge of physical nous in the engine room. Ferguson, likewise, is no shrinking violet and will be heavily enthused at the prospect of getting one over Celtic again at Pittodrie. His ability to play deeper or further up the field is a key attribute the youngster has in his repertoire. Combined with this, is his eagerness to get involved in the ugly side of the game, happy to put himself about if and when required.
That makes me think that we should be better going with a midfield three of McGregor, Bitton and McCarthy. While James hasn’t enjoyed the most notable of starts to his Celtic career, let’s be honest, these are the types of games he was brought in for – otherwise, why did we even bother? The guy played in the Premier League last year, so he must be able to put in a shift at Pittodrie.
Added to this is Bitton, a player I feel has been harshly judged at times because of his incompetence at central defence. I still maintain he looks a different player in midfield, sitting just in front of the defence; much like we have seen Sergio Busquests do for Barcelona for some years now. I also think his height could be crucial for set-pieces, as we have a definite dearth of height in this current Celtic team.
The midfield battle will be fast, furious, and downright edgy on Sunday. This, unfortunately, means that neither David Turnbull nor Tom Rogic should be involved on current form, as it could be another disaster which sets us out of the title race. A win at Pittodrie could really be the kick-start that puts our season on the road to recovery, allowing Ange some breathing space by a bloodthirsty media and press. The midfield could just be the area that delivers this crucial lifeline, in our quest for success again this year.