Celtic reaction: Pitching for Rodgers' invincible standards against Rangers, James McCarthy question, fielding derby team largely untainted by grim run in fixture

All eyes turned towards Celtic’s hosting of Rangers on Wednesday following the club’s dramatic 1-0 win over Dundee United.

Former Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers at Parkhead yesterday for a win by the Leicester City leader's old club that pushed the current domestic unbeaten run to 21 games and into the territory of his second-best such sequence in Glasgow. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Former Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers at Parkhead yesterday for a win by the Leicester City leader's old club that pushed the current domestic unbeaten run to 21 games and into the territory of his second-best such sequence in Glasgow. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

Celtic pitching for invincible standards against Rangers

It was fitting that Brendan Rodgers was at Cetic Park yesterday - though a crying shame the childish antipathy for him among the club’s support meant his presence could not be acknowledged over the public address system. With Liel Abada’s 90th minute winner, which had Celtic Park rocking as it rarely has for a domestic encounter since Rodgers’ departure almost three years ago, Ange Postecoglou’s men didn’t just ensure they cut the gap over league leaders Rangers - and give themselves the opportunity to replace their ancient adversaries when the pair go toe-to-toe in Glasgow’s east end on Wednesday. The victory took their unbeaten domestic run to 21 games. That is the longest such sequence since the opening months of Rodgers’ second campaign, 2017-18. If Celtic were to avoid defeat in midweek, their current unbeaten domestic run will become their longest since the club’s invincibles treble-snaring campaign in 2016-17. In terms of outcomes - even if some have been eked out - Posteocoglou’s men couldn’t be in better shape for the ultimate test of the mettle developed over the past four months.

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Celtic's James McCarthy will be required to step up for Ange Postecoglou's men in midweek against Rangers with five midfielders unavailable. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

The red card earned by Nir Bitton against United was the product of two bookable offences that ensued from the stand-in captain messily attempting to mop up team-mate errors. The 30-year-old’s dismissal hasn’t just deprived Ane Postecoglou of a player in form. Incredibly, Bitton now becomes the fifth midfielder who will be unavailable to the Celtic manager for the derby dust-up. Injuries would seem to discount Callum McGregor, David Turnbull and Yosuke Ideguchi. Meanwhile, Tom Rogic is set to turn out for Australia on the other side of the planet the day before the fixture (any excitable chat about the playmaker being rushed back to feature can be taken with a warehouse of salt).

By a process of elimination then, James McCarthy seems poised to be required to fill the breach. His deployment in the midfielder anchor role against Rangers need not be as troubling as has been presented in some quarters. The 30-year-old Republic of Ireland international is hugely experienced, and as a lifelong Celtic supporter the occasion won’t hold any surprises for him. More than that, for all that the former Crystal Palace, Everton, Wigan and Hamilton performer has hardly pulled up trees since his summer arrival, his game management has been faultless in his cameos for the wins over United and Hearts in the past week. McCarthy needs to step up for his club on Wednesday. The time could just be right for him to do so.

A Celtic team largely untainted by dismal derby run

It is often felt that psychological scarring enters the equation when one of the Glasgow clubs becomes so under the thumb of the other in their skirmishing. Celtic certainly seem in that invidious position through having failed to win any of the past seven derbies contested in more than two years. Yet, such is the turnover in personnel available to Ange Postecoglou for midweek since even the Ibrox men’s 1-0 win on August 28, the Celtic manager is likely to field an XI boasting few players with any experiences - bad or good - of the fixture. Cameron Carter-Vickers, James McCarthy, Matt O’Riley, Reo Hatate, Jota and Giorgos Giakoumakis are all in line for their derby debuts. Rangers can rightly feel they are adept at getting the job done in these confrontations, but their opposition for the latest installment will be a largely unknown quantity.

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