Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic side finally return to Premiership action later this evening, with Hibernian making the trip to Parkhead for the first fixture since the Scottish winter break.
The two sides met as recently as December 19, when the Bhoys saw off Hibs 2-1 at Hampden Park in the League Cup final – with Kyogo Furuhashi’s second-half brace ensuring that Postecoglou would pick up the first piece of silverware available during his short tenure as Celtic boss.
However, with the Hoops having already made four signings in the January transfer window, in addition to still being burdened by a number of injuries to important first-team players, the 56-year-old’s starting XI could look very different to the one that lined up in the Bhoys’ most recent league fixture against St. Johnstone.
So, how many changes will the Greek-Australian manager make to the side which started the 3-1 win over the Saints last time out? Here’s how we think Celtic could line up against Hibs, along with the latest team and injury news…
With Postecoglou looking to still be without the services of David Turnbull, Albian Ajeti, Giorgos Giakoumakis, James Forrest, Karamoko Dembele and Christopher Jullien due to injury, as well as suffering the recent blow of Kyogo Furuhashi’s unavailability, we predict that the 56-year-old will make a whopping six changes to his starting XI from the St. Johnstone victory.
The first of these comes between the Celtic sticks, with Vasilis Barkas dropping out of the side following the return of Joe Hart – who missed the Saints fixture due to fitness concerns.
There are a further two changes in the Bhoys backline, with Greg Taylor taking the place of Liam Scales at left-back, while Josip Juranovic drops back into right-back, with Stephen Welsh making way for the Croatia international.
In the middle of the park, despite impressing against St. Johnstone, the £14k-per-week Nir Bitton – who was once dubbed a “walking joke” by Bhoys Analytics – makes way for the return of club captain Callum McGregor at the base of Postecoglou’s three-man midfield, while Reo Hatate is handed his Celtic debut alongside Tom Rogic in the two more advanced central midfield roles – with the £19k-per-week James McCarthy having to once again make do with a spot on the bench.
Finally, there appears to be an extremely exciting return to first-team action on the cards for the £4.95m-rated Jota, who comes straight back into the side following his potential recovery from a hamstring injury, while there is a further Celtic debut handed to Daizen Maeda – who replaces his stricken international teammate Kyogo in leading the line for the Hoops.