Celtic go up against Zenit in a huge first leg match of their Europa League last-32 tie.
And there’s no doubt that Brendan Rodgers will have to name a strong starting XI if the Hoops are to get the tie off to the best possible start with a home win.
That’s what fans should be expecting given the support at Celtic Park and the hostile atmosphere that can be created on big European nights like this.
There are, of course, some worries over the recent form of Celtic, with a 1-0 defeat to Kilmarnock and a close 3-2 victory over Partick Thistle at the weekend demonstrating some of the team’s frailties.
But Rodgers still has a quality team – and we think the predicted XI for tonight’s game could provide a big test for Zenit:
Why Ajer and Simunovic?
Really, they are the only option. Jack Hendry is one for right now, or else Rodgers wouldn’t have spent £1.2million on him and would have resisted playing him so early on him after his move from Dundee. But, Ajer and Simunovic are more experienced and that should count for a lot more going into a big game tonight. Sure, both have their issues, but you’d hope they can use a determination to prove their doubters wrong to put in big performances.
There shouldn’t really be any discussion over this. With Stuart Armstrong and Callum McGregor struggling for form of late, Ntcham has stepped up to play consistently well alongside Scott Brown. He’ll look to provide the forward passing Celtic will need on a night they need to score goals.
Tom Rogic is back fit and some may be keen to see him thrown straight into the team, but surely it’s too early for a game like this? Instead, Rodgers should go with Musonda due to his high-profile signing in January. He’s been in the team since moving on loan from Chelsea and European experience was no doubt a big factor in his decision to sign for the Scottish champions. No doubt Celtic used it as a tool to persuade him too. This could be a game that Musonda announces himself in.
He’s Rodgers’ boy – and has done more than enough during his time at Celtic to earn a place in a big game like Zenit. Sinclair is arguably still Celtic’s best player and has the ability to turn a game in their favour provided he’s on the park. Of course, he’s not in scintillating form and appears to be frustrating some supporters, but Celtic can’t afford to leave a player as good as he is on the bench. Besides, who could do better in his position?
With Leigh Griffiths injured, it’s a no-brainer that Dembele leads the line. He needs a big game and tonight could give him the opportunity to restart his Celtic career after a disappointing first half of the season.