Neil Lennon has been persistent with the 3-5-2 formation in recent weeks, but he did begin the campaign with four at the back and one up front. On the opening day, the Bhoys smashed Hamilton 5-1 with a 4-2-3-1 formation, he maintained that shape in the 1-1 draw at Kilmarnock, the 1-0 victory over Dundee United and the 3-0 win against Motherwell.
The signing of Shane Duffy heralded a change in personnel as Lennon adopted a 3-5-2, which has at times been a bit of a 3-5-1-1 with a midfielder sitting behind the striker. The switch in formation immediately paid dividends with Ross County being thumped 5-0, and every game has been won using that shape since.
Now things are very different going into the Glasgow Derby. As it stands, three players will certainly miss the match, whilst Edouard is a major doubt. Two of the absentees are defenders in Elhamed and Bitton, whilst Jullien hasn’t played since getting injured a couple of weeks ago.
Therefore, the only match fit centre backs available at present are Ajer and Duffy. Meanwhile, at the top end of the pitch, Edouard is a major doubt after isolating for over a week, Ajeti hasn’t played any football for a few weeks since his hamstring injury and Leigh Griffiths hasn’t had that much action (although he did score in his 90 minute run out during the midweek bounce game).
Given the lack of defensive options, it is quite possible that Neil Lennon will revert back to a back four, meaning that only two centre backs are required to play. He can then choose one of the three strikers to play, rather than trying to get two of the three unfit forwards on the pitch.
On the other hand, Lennon may feel that Jullien is ready to return and could go with a 3-5-2; the Frenchman slotting alongside Duffy and Ajer. The boss may feel that two of the three strikers are in fact ready, whilst he could also play Moi Elyounoussi in that advanced role alongside someone such as Griffiths.
It’s certainly a very strange build up and quite a challenge to go into the biggest game of the season so far without the services of Forrest, Elhamed, Bitton and Christie, as well as the possible absence of Jullien, Ajeti and Edouard.