THERE were three positions open to speculation in Brendan Rodgers’ team selection for tonight’s mouth-watering Europa League tie against Valencia at Celtic Park.
Those positions were centre forward – apparently if we call that the Number 9 position someone on Twitter calls it’s click-bait – the role beside Dedryck Boyata in the centre of the Celtic defence and of course the recently problematic left back spot.
Oliver Burke, so impressive on Sunday in the Scottish Cup in over St Johnstone, seemed to pick up an injury late in the game that put an immediate question mark over his participation this evening. However his manager has been positive all week that the striker (No.9) will be okay and will accordingly start this evening.
On Sunday Celtic started with a central defensive partnership of Boyata and Simunovic but Jozo failed to appear for the second half, being replaced by Kris Ayer. This looked like a tactical change with Valencia in mind – giving both players 45 minutes each – but Brendan later revealed that Simunovic was complaining of feeling unwell at half time so was replaced.
Yesterday we reckoned it was a toss of a coin decision on whether Simunovic or Ajer would get the nod tonight and it seems that the big Croatian has been selected.
Then there’s the left back problem. First there was hope that Kieran Tierney would be back for this game with the papers saying he’d have until yesterday to convince Brendan he was ready to start after resuming training at the end of last week after a two month lay-off with his hip injury. Those hopes were dashed yesterday when Brendan opened his press conference by stating that KT wasn’t available for this evening.
Brendan could play Jerry Toljan at left back and bring Mikael Lustig back into the side on the right hand side of the Celtic defence.
Or he could go with Jonny Hayes (who is pictured in an Aberdeen shirt alongside big Jozo above) who also impressed on Sunday in his first start of the year. The Irishman was even credited with a lovely assist for James Forrest’s goal.
Alternatively the manager could select Emilio Izaguirre who is back to full fitness after missing the Scottish Cup game against St Johnstone game following that horrendous challenge on him in the game against Hibs.
Brendan it seems has opted for the popular Honduran, so that will mean spots on the bench for the likes of Ayer, Hayes, Craig Gordon, Nir Bitton, Timo Weah, Odsonne Edoaurd and Mikey Johnston.
Olivier Ntcham is also unavailable with his ongoing hamstring problem playing up again.
So the Celtic team this evening looks likely to be as follows….
Jerry Toljan, Jozo Simunovic, Dedryck Boyata, Emilio Izaguirre
Scott Brown (captain), Callum McGregor
James Forrest, Ryan Christie, Scotty Sinclair
Oli Burke (playing in the No.9 role!)
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