We give our take on who Brendan Rodgers should select in order to gain three points from Saturday’s match.
GK - Dorus de Vries (Celtic)
Under current circumstances - with Craig Gordon having been a safe pair of hands for over two seasons, and De Vries looking a little nervous in his debut against Aberdeen - if this were a one-off game, like a cup final or something similar, you’d have to go with Gordon. You want reliability at the goalkeeper position and Celtic know exactly what Gordon will give them. However, the home side would fancy their chances of gaining victory even if it were fourth choice Leo Fasan between the sticks, and Rodgers has to be mindful of long-term harmony within the squad. If he believes De Vries to be his man, as he has indicated, then he has to show trust in him and start the Dutch stopper against Rangers.
DR - Mikael Lustig; DC - Kolo Toure; DC - Erik Sviatchenko; DL - Kieran Tierney
The centre backs pick themselves. It is at the full back positions where Rodgers will need to weigh up his options. Tierney will start if he’s fully fit, but only Celtic know if that is to be the case. The teenager has struggled with injury the past two weeks, which led to his absence from the Scotland squad that travelled to Malta, but unlike his fellow treatment table team-mate, Leigh Griffiths, Tierney did participate in training on Thursday. If he’s not at 100 per cent, with a long season ahead, Emilio Izaguirre should be brought in as an able deputy.
On the opposite side of the back four, Rodgers will decide whether he wants to throw new signing Cristian Gamboa right into the deep end, or stick with Mikael Lustig. Gamboa is an attack-minded player, so Rodgers may wish to use the ex-West Brom man if he wishes to pin Rangers deep in their own half, but with Barrie McKay lurking on this side of the field he should use some caution and select the more trustworthy Lustig.
MC - Scott Brown; MC - Callum McGregor
Nir Bitton has greater talent than McGregor. In fact, he’s got more talent than most in Scottish football. However, Bitton and Brown have ceased working as a cohesive partnership. For whatever reason, Brown has looked at his best beside McGregor so far this season and the duo should start against Rangers.
AMR - James Forrest; AMC - Tom Rogic; AML - Scott Sinclair
An obvious omission from this XI is Patrick Roberts. The on loan Manchester City winger has been injured recently, so that plays a part in our logic, but there’s also a tactical point to take into consideration. Both Roberts and Sinclair are wide men who like to do their attacking inside. Rangers’ greatest strength is the attacking play of their full backs. If Celtic use two wingers who like to attack the middle, it may open room on the flanks for Rangers to play their own game. Starting Forrest, a player who likes to hug the touchline, would keep Lee Wallace honest in his defensive duties, thereby curtailing the left back’s forays up the park. Furthermore, there is no player quicker than Forrest in the Celtic squad, and Rangers leave a lot of space in behind the back four.
There is no case to be made for not picking Rogic or Sinclair. Each are in red hot form.
FC - Moussa Dembele
At present, Griffiths looks a major doubt for Saturday. Celtic have sent the player for a scan, which hints at a bigger problem, and even if that’s not the case it does sound like he’s struggling to shake the injury sustained against Aberdeen. Considering the domestic form of both sides and Celtic’s home ground advantage, they should be more than confident of starting with Dembele and still getting the victory. While the young striker doesn’t carry the goal threat of Griffiths, he’s shown flashes of potential thus far and is better at holding the ball up, which could allow the likes of Rogic and Sinclair to provide the match-winning touch.