With a defeat for Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic side on Thursday evening all but ending the Bhoys’ hopes of making it to the knockout stage of the Europa League, the 56-year-old Hoops manager will know that he has no room for error when selecting his starting XI for the fixture.
However, with a number of injury concerns ahead of the trip to Bayer Leverkusen, with both central midfielder Tom Rogic and centre-back Carl Starfelt being ruled out of the clash, Postecoglou has been left with something of an unwanted selection headache in what could well turn out to be a season-defining fixture in the Bhoys’ 2020/21 campaign.
So, will the 56-year-old make any changes to the team which started the 1-0 League Cup semi-final win over St Johnstone last time out? Here’s how we think Celtic could line up against Bayer, along with the latest team and injury news…
As previously mentioned, with both Rogic and Starfelt missing out at the BayArena on Thursday, while Stephen Welsh also looks unlikely to start after being withdrawn against St Johnstone last weekend due to a facial injury, we predict that Postecoglou will make two changes to his starting XI.
The first of these alterations comes in the heart of defence, with the 21-year-old Welsh dropping to the bench, while defensive midfielder Nir Bitton – who was once dubbed a “walking joke” by Bhoys Analytics – slots into the defensive quartet alongside Cameron Carter-Vickers at centre-back.
This sees 31-year-old James McCarthy handed only his fourth start of the season in the more defensive slot of Celtic’s midfield trio, with the remaining two positions retained by Callum McGregor and David Turnbull.
The second of Postecoglou’s changes comes in the front three, with the £19k-per-week James Forrest taking the place of Liel Abada on the right-wing, as the 30-year-old played a key role in Celtic’s semi-final triumph on Saturday, while the 20-year-old has not been in the best of form in recent fixtures.