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Potential XIs: Looking at how Celtic could line up against Rennes

Early on Thursday night, Celtic will take on Rennes in France. It is the first of their Europa League groups games, and a point would be a very good result.

It would set up Celtic’s home game rather nicely and give them a decent chance of going forward from the group.

Brendan Rodgers may have gone there and tried to play attacking football and damn the consequences, but Neil Lennon is a more pragmatic manager than his predecessor.

He has a number of tactical options available to him, but which one should he choose?

Let’s start with the basic 4-2-3-1.

It is an attacking system and based on the current makeup of the squad, this is the likely starting eleven.

That system is good enough to get goals – Ryan Christie, James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard have nine between them in the top flight this season – but it’s also more expansive than might be safe with four attacking players.

The Celtic defence is still settling in following the summer arrivals of Boli Bolingoli, Christopher Jullien and Hatem Abd Elhamed, and this would be a bad night for them to get exposed.

There is a system very similar to this which would give them more protection, and it might well be that Lennon decides to go with it instead.

It involves sacrificing the attacking midfielder, Christie, for another central midfield player and pulling Scott Brown back into a true defensive midfield role.

That’s a 4-1-2-2-1 system, or a 4-1-2-3.

This system has one major advantage and one major disadvantage.

The advantage is obvious; it puts Brown in a place where he can cover the backline and offer them protection.

The disadvantage is that gaping hole between the central midfield and the striker; against a decent defence and a good midfield you need that man in the hole, that link man, to create chances and get the ball forward.

Without him, you’re basically relying on the lone striker to do a lot of work, or you’re asking your wingers to be out of position in the transition phase.

If it’s a more structured approach Lennon wants, he can pull the wide men back, letting them help the full-backs, and play a more compact midfield.

The advantage of the 4-4-1-1 is that you still have the striker supported by the roaming midfielder.

But this does negate the two potent weapons they have on the wing and especially Forrest, who is in the midst of a great run of form with seven goals and five assists in all competitions.

He will almost certainly play as part of whatever system Lennon decides to play, and if the gaffer goes for a radically defensive team he would probably play behind Edouard in the hole, in a 5-3-1-1.

This would move Hatem Abd Elhamed to central defence and put Moritz Bauer on the right.

That would give Celtic an extra central defender as well as an extra man in the middle of the pitch.

The wide forwards would go, but Bolingoli and Bauer would play further up the pitch – which may actually play to the former’s natural game.

It would also let Lennon play Olivier Ntcham, who showed last season he can get forward and score goals with six in total.

We suspect Lennon will go with one of the systems here. It will be interesting to see which it is.

Article title: Potential XIs: Looking at how Celtic could line up against Rennes

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