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Celtic predicted line-ups for Hibernian match at Easter Road



Celtic travel to the capital to take on Hibernian in the Scottish Premiership on Wednesday evening

Following last Saturday’s disappointing draw at Aberdeen, Brendan Rodgers will be looking to get back to winning ways in the league. They face Hibs, who have not won a league game since December under Nick Montgomery, who is under increasing pressure. Indeed, their last victory came against Livingston, with the side sitting seventh in the Premiership table at the time of writing.

Last time out, his side lost 3-0 to Stephen Robinson’s St Mirren, who are Celtic’s next opponents in the Scottish Cup this weekend. Earlier on in the season, Celtic and the hosts played out a 0-0 stalemate at Easter Road, whilst Rodgers’ team ran out 4-1 winners in Glasgow back in December. Incredibly, Wednesday night’s location is a ground that Rodgers has yet to achieve victory at, with Easter Road proving to be a bit of a bogey ground for the returning manager.

Three points are required for this one for Celtic, who may even be in second position by the time this game kicks off. The question is, who will start for Celtic for this important game in the context of their domestic season? The Celtic Way’s Ryan McGinlay and Tony Haggerty each have their say…

Ryan McGinlay

What a massive game in the context of this season as a whole.

No two ways about it, anything other than a win in the capital and Celtic are in full-blown crisis mode for this campaign. What was already a big game in the making became even bigger due to events that transpired last weekend, as Celtic’s draw with Aberdeen was punished by Rangers and their 3-0 win over Livingston. Quite simply, there are no more margins for error in this season, and Celtic realistically have to display perfect form to get to where they need to be domestically.

With that in mind, there will be a couple of changes from the team that struggled in the Granite City. One who did not was goalkeeper Joe Hart, who retains his rightful place as Celtic’s number one. Arguably his performance of the season thus far, Hart was the difference between Celtic gaining a point and coming home with nothing, so the goalkeeping status quo remains.

There’s no getting away from it, Celtic’s defending – particularly for Bojan Miovski’s well-taken goal – was shambolic. Despite a decent first half, Alexandro Bernabei displayed a Jekyll and Hyde-type performance that those of a Celtic persuasion are all too used to from the Argentina left-back. For that reason, the manager has a decision to make. Does he shift Liam Scales out to the left-back role from the centre, or does he elect to play Anthony Ralston on the opposite side to what he’s accustomed to? Thanks to Hibs’ options on the wing, he will go for the latter, with Alistair Johnston deployed as the other full-back for this one. In the centre of defence, Scales will be joined by Maik Nawrocki, as both will be looking for better games than last time out. For Nawrocki in particular, he will need to avoid another 10-minute hiccup like he did at Pittodrie, as he could have been given his marching orders in that same gave for his challenge on Graeme Shinnie. Stephen Welsh can feel hard done by that he has not made the starting line-up for this one, though he may do so in Paisley at the weekend.

Perhaps the most disappointing area of the pitch in Celtic’s overall performance on Saturday was in midfield, where they had little to no control for large parts of proceedings. In an ideal world, Tomoki Iwata would come straight in to provide muscle in the visitors’ engine room, though he will be back too soon for this one. Because of this, it will be an unchanged midfield three, as captain Callum McGregor will be joined by Paulo Bernardo and Matt O’Riley for this one. In the case of the latter, O’Riley’s form has plummeted over the past couple of games, so a return to his dynamic best would be great timing from the Denmark cap for the club. McGregor and Bernardo both had poor games at the weekend, with the captain’s inconsistent form this campaign at odds with the manager he is working with, given their history together. Perhaps Easter Road may be the place to get back on track for all three.

Speaking of getting back on track, both of Celtic’s wingers are proving to be ineffectual at present, with Liel Abada and Luis Palma struggling to set the heather alight in any way since their return from the winter break. Changes are in order, which will mean a first-ever start for Saturday’s goalscorer Nicolas Kühn, who will take Abada’s spot at right wing. Daizen Maeda – back from the Asia Cup – will go straight back into the starting line-up ahead of Palma on the left. Up front, I am predicting another debut start for Adam Idah, who will replace Kyogo Furuhashi in the starting line-up. It is time to roll the dice with this team, so let’s see how the Japanese striker reacts to a spell out of the team, especially given Idah’s cameo performance versus Aberdeen.

There will be goals in this game, but Rodgers will be walking out of Easter Road with a victory for the first time in his career.

Ryan’s team: Hart; Johnston, Nawrocki, Scales, Ralston; McGregor, Bernardo; Kuhn, O’Riley, Maeda; Idah

Tony Haggerty

Celtic travel to Easter Road to face Hibs on Wednesday.

It’s not a happy hunting ground for Rodgers as he has never won in the capital. The mood music and optics heading into this one don’t look too great after the 1-1 draw with Aberdeen which saw another two precious Scottish Premiership points slip through the champions’ grasp. Something has to give and the Northern Irishman knows it.

Celtic simply need to get back on the domestic horse and nothing less than a victory will do in Edinburgh. That’s why I think the 51-year-old will opt to rip things asunder and come at it with a fresh approach.

In goal will be Hart, who earned Celtic their point in the Granite City with a string of decent second-half saves. This is where it gets interesting as I can see the men in green and white opting for three centre-backs, and that being the case then Johnston is the odd man out due to his form going off the boil of late. The defensive nod will go to Nawrocki who didn’t exactly cover himself in glory when Miovski netted the equaliser at the weekend. He will slot in alongside Welsh and Scales.

In the midfield, the usual triumvirate will feature with captain McGregor, O’Riley and Bernardo. However, one of the major positives from the weekend was the 30-minute cameo from Kuhn and it was the German’s first goal for his new club that salvaged a point for Celtic. Kuhn will be deployed out wide right of a five-man midfield with Maeda on the left berth following his Asian Cup exertions with Japan. Maeda will be thrown straight back in at the expense of Palma as the Honduran wideman’s form is in danger of going off a cliff.

That leaves the radical two players up front and those two will be Idah who was another impressive performer at Pittodrie and the misfiring Kyogo. The talismanic Japanese goalscorer needs a hand and Idah could well be the man that provides his partner with the spark to kickstart something in the remaining 14 games of the campaign. Whatever Rodgers and his team have been doing it’s not been working of late. It is time to go with two strikers up front in a 3-5-2 formation. I’m tipping Idah to break his duck for his new club just as Kuhn did against the Reds and Rodgers to finally get the win against Hibs at Easter Road that has eluded him in both managerial tenures with Celtic thus far.



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