Celtic v the Rangers – Pair Griffiths and Klimala, Rogic the ten, Laxalt, Frimpong wingbacks

Patryk Klimala rather cheekily tapped a Leigh Griffiths goalward bound shot into the Hibs net in the closing stages of a pre-season friendly on 27 July. The Polish striker started the match with Griffiths coming off the bench for his first action of the pre-season after missing the three summer matches in France due to a lack of conditioning.

With Griffiths as his strike partner Klimala added a second as Celtic ran out 3-1 winners.

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There was little or no talk of a possible free-scoring partnership and of course everyone looked to Odsonne Edouard as the Celtic talisman and the first striker to be named on any Celtic team-sheet.

Of course the worry was that French Eddie might have been sold in the transfer window that this year ran much longer than usual, only closing earlier this week. Enquiries that were made were met with a little or no encouragement with Celtic apparently telling interested parties that it would take much more than the sum that had been mentioned in the media to get a deal done.

Meanwhile the club backed Neil Lennon’s judgement regarding Albian Ajeti, the former FC Basel goalscorer who had endured a tough season since his move to West Ham. Celtic spent £5m to bring in the Swiss International striker who does exactly what not says on the tin – he sticks the ball in the netti.

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Many Celtic supporters therefore looked forward to an Edouard/Ajeti partnership developing as Neil Lennon reverted to the 3-5-2 system that was so effective at the start of the year, driving Celtic to 9IAR.

That pairing hasn’t had a chance to develop properly yet but there is still plenty of time. In the meantime we look towards out next game a week on Saturday, on 17 October when theRangers visit Celtic Park and there are considerable and justified frustrations ahead of this match for the Celtic support, mainly involving our goalscorers.

Before Covid-19 got involved in all of this Albian Ajeti pulled up after thrashing the ball into the netti (as it says on the tin) against Hibs, this time visiting Celtic Park on Premiership duties. And James Forrest was injured in the Europa League Qualifier in Latvia against FC Riga and has a slight fracture on his ankle that will rule him out for 4/6 weeks.

These things normally happen in football but these are far from normal times for the game and this week after testing negative for Covid at Celtic, Odsonne Edouard returned a positive test back home in France ahead of their Under 21 matches this week. That may end up being a false positive, but if it is the case the primary concern should be for the player and his health. Get well soon Odsonne.

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Edouard has to self-isolate in France for seven days so could be back in Glasgow and ready to play against theRangers if Neil Lennon is minded to take the risk in playing his talisman under these circumstances. You would have to think that the most likely outcome, if Edouard is included in the Celtic squad at all for this Glasgow Derby, is that he’d be on the bench.

Then we had the Ryan Christie news yesterday which involved former Celtic Star Stuart Armstrong having a positive test for Covid and Christie and another former Celt Kieran Tierney being dragged into the along with a couple of SFA staffers with them all being told to self-isolate for 14 days. Neither Arsenal nor Celtic were happy with this decision but it looks certain that Christie is out of the Glasgow Derby.

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Neil Lennon earlier this week, when talking to the media after bing named as the Premiership’s Manager of the Month for September, revealed that Albian Ajeti is hopeful that he’ll be ready to face theRangers next Saturday. But with hamstring injuries coming back too soon runs the risk of a reoccurrence and a much longer period on the sidelines.

Starting Ajeti, who has had very little football over the past year, in this high intensity Glasgow Derby also seems to be a risk not worth taking and it is more likely he will give Neil Lennon another scoring option from the bench.

Christie’s absence seems to be confirmed but with Tom Rogic – a skelper of some note remember – ready to get back into the team, we are well covered. The Australian’s scoring record against theRangers speaks for itself. Rogic’s return at the weekend against St Johnstone therefore is pretty much perfect timing ahead of next Saturday’s game.

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And as for the two up top, when Celtic were struggling on Sunday to break down a packed and determined Saints defence Neil Lennon brought on two strikers – Griffiths and Klimala and just like they did against Hibs at the end of July, the pair added two more goals to their collective tally.

Griffiths’ movement before his brilliant header was class and Klimala’s determination to get back to his feet after a shocking challenge to fire the ball into the St Johnstone net really was special. Have you ever seen a player do that before?

So with Christie watching on television, Edouard and Ajeti on the bench and Celtic starting with Rogic as the number ten behind Griffiths and Klimala, Celtic should have more than enough to worry theRangers defence, particularly with new signing from AC Milan Diego Laxalt bombing down the left hand side of the park with Jeremie Frimpong doing the same down the right.

Scott Brown and Callum McGregor can make up the five in the middle with a back three of Ajer, Jullien (or Elhamed) and Duffy with Barkas in goals.

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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