Celtic deservedly beat St Mirren 2-0 last night, but it was another performance that was uneasy on the eye. Ange Postecoglou elected to go with Taylor and Juranovic as his full backs, meanwhile Maeda started up front as Giakoumakis was ruled out through illness.
The Bhoys now face a trip to Livingston on Sunday, a venue with a horrid plastic pitch on which Celtic have never registered a victory. With the gap just three points at the top, it is essential that the Hoops put an end to that record and get maximum return from the game.
Ange will have a few positions to consider when selecting his starting line up. In the last two league games he has gone with Greg Taylor at left back and Josip Juranovic at right back, leaving Anthony Ralston on the bench. Both of these games have resulted in clean sheets, but there have been few opportunities created by the pair. On the other hand, Ralston started the league game against Dundee two weeks ago and he provided an endless supply of deadly crosses, which often flew across the six yard box with nobody waiting to pounce. The Scottish defender then finally got his reward with a superb assist to clinch the game for Celtic in the dying minutes.
CELTIC 3-2 DUNDEE
GIAKOUMAKIS ⚽️⚽️⚽️ pic.twitter.com/dX1gD4ospd
— CELTIC NATION🍀⚽️⭐ (@CelticNation67) February 20, 2022
Ralston has notched up five goals and seven assists from right back this term – stunning statistics for a man who has found himself on the bench a lot recently. He has pace, desire and urgency in abundance. But he also has an outstanding ability to overlap the winger, enabling him to get in behind a packed defence and supply a low cross or cut back. This is something which could be absolutely key against a team which will sit deep and look to frustrate Celtic. Certainly, it is an element of our play which has been lacking recently and was particularly non existent on the left hand side against St Mirren.
Kyogo Furuhashi Goal vs Hearts 🇯🇵🍀 pic.twitter.com/4DEh2oJZMt
— The Celtic Text 🍀 (@TheCelticText) December 2, 2021
— Lumbriffstan Celtic F.C. / The Highlanders (@ajarnpraw) November 7, 2021
Given that we have struggled to break teams down at times, by Ange’s own admission, Ralston’s ability to get beyond the opposition defence is something that could be invaluable. Indeed, endless high crosses have been fruitless for us and we’ve not been able to carve teams open through the middle when they’re so tightly packed.
In terms of the striker position, I think Giakoumakis could be key to winning the game. He provides a physical presence on a surface which is conducive to a physical game rather than a free flowing football match. Furthermore, the Greek forward likes to get the ball to feet, hold it up and bring others into play. He provides a good outlet for us and has just come into some decent goalscoring form for Celtic.
🚨 PERFECT HAT-TRICK KLAXON 🚨
— SPFL (@spfl) February 21, 2022
The choice will be between Giakoumakis and Maeda. The latter has looked lost in recent games. His finishing has been wayward, with headers and volleys flying well off target. Additionally, he seems to consistently make runs too far past the post, such that he receives the ball in positions from which he cannot realistically score. However, beyond finishing woes, he doesn’t seem to be suiting the team at the moment. The likes of Kyogo can come short and link well with Rogic or can make runs in behind. Giakoumakis can hold the ball well. But Maeda doesn’t seem to do either. It’s almost a lack of options for midfielders when we come forward at times. This isn’t to write him off as it’s early days yet, but dealing in the short term – it is key that Giakoumakis is given the nod for the trip to Livingston for me. A hat trick on his last domestic outing almost demands it!
Postecoglou may consider replacing Hatate with Bitton and O’Riley with Rogic, but in my opinion the changes that could effect the game the most will be the restoration of Ralston and Giakoumakis to the starting line up. Although, Ange knows more than me about football and I will back whatever he ultimately decides to do.