Celtic’s torrid run looks set to continue, as the Hoops welcome Ligue 1 highflyers Lille to Celtic Park for Matchday 6 of the Europa League group stage. It’s a game of polar opposites, with Celtic knocked out of the Group with two to play after defeat in Milan, leaving Celtic with the worst defensive record across both major European competitions. Lille, however, go into this final game knowing that a victory will allow them to top the group ahead of AC Milan.
Celtic suffered another disappointing result with a 1-1 draw at home to St Johnstone, with Celtic again looking clueless as far as a system or tactics go, and toothless when it comes to attacking play, a common theme of Celtic this season.
Although the pressure is on Neil Lennon, and has been mounting for weeks, it isn’t likely that a nothing game like this will have any effect on the manager’s position, with Lennon seemingly set to stay in the job until the New Year. In Lennon’s European press conference on Thursday he said this game will be treated as a way to give rotation players a chance. He specifically name-dropped Ismaila Soro, Patryk Klimala and David Turnbull.
Fans have been crying out for weeks for the likes of Soro and Turnbull to be given a run out so the prospect of seeing them in action could provide a bit of excitement to an uninteresting nothing game such as this one. With Scott Brown and Callum McGregor failing to impress this season, good performance from the two midfielders could launch themselves into a starting role against Kilmarnock on Sunday.
In the reverse fixture it finished 2-2 in Lille as Celtic threw away a 2 goal advantage, and Celtic have already lost both home games in the Europa League this season, 4-1 to Sparta Prague and 3-1 to AC Milan.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Lille are flying high in Ligue 1, sitting second in the table just 2 points behind PSG. Lille have only lost one game in all competitions this season. They are unbeaten in their last five games. Lille booked their spot in the next round with a nervy 2-1 win over Sparta Prague, who did the double over Celtic with thrashings dished out home and away.
A player to watch out for in the Lille team could be veteran striker Burak Yilmaz, who netted both goals in their win over Sparta Prague, and he could partner talented young prospect Jonathan David up front. Turkish attacking midfielder Yusuf Yazici could also prove to be a threat, as he has picked up two match balls this season after scoring two Europa League hat tricks, coming against Sparta Prague and AC Milan, which shows why clubs like Arsenal are eyeing his signature.
Celtic cannot afford to drop any more points domestically, so it makes sense why Lennon would make some changes for this game. Neil Lennon announced in his press conference that Nir Bitton, Hatem Abd Elhamed and Olivier Ntcham would all be injury doubts for this game, with James Forrest still sidelined. Lille are without right-back Zeki Celik, who was one of the scorers when Lille came back to draw with Celtic at Stade Pierre Mauroy.
Predicted Celtic Lineup:
Barkas, Frimpong, Jullien, Ajer, Taylor,
Soro, Turnbull, Rogic,
Elyounoussi, Klimala, Ajeti