Celtic’s season officially got underway with the 3-0 beating of FC Alashkert in the first round of Champions League qualifying last night.
Brendan Rodgers’ men have been in pre-season mode for weeks and last night’s match would have been welcome after some intense preparations at home and in Austria for their pre-season tour.
And now attention will turn to what is a very important bid to make the Champions League group stages, with the start of the Scottish Premiership season not too far away either.
So we thought it would be a good time to consider five important takeaways from their early season start:
1 – Two Up Front?
In Armenia last night, Rodgers decided to go with Moussa Dembele and expensive summer signing Odsonne Edouard from the start – and at times it looked like they were playing as a pair in attack. Could that be a sign of things to come this season? Rodgers has used a 3-5-2 formation plenty of times before and that may be his preference more regularly if both strikers are fit and available. Leigh Griffiths’ continued presence in the squad also suggests that could be a good plan going forward.
2 – Jack Hendry In, Anthony Ralston Out?
It’s been Hendry who’s been doing the majority of the deputising for Mikael Lustig while the Swede has been at the World Cup. The former Dundee defender has played there in friendlies, was at right back for last night’s game too and with Lustig not expected to return until the week after next, you can expect him to remain at right back for the return leg in Glasgow next week. So what does that say about Ralston’s future? Rodgers obviously rates him, as you saw at the beginning of last season, but has Hendry moved ahead of him as backup right back? It appears so – and that could mean it’s another campaign spent out on loan for Ralston.
3 – Lewis Morgan to Play a Big Part
Based on his performances in friendlies so far, Morgan looks like he’s got something to contribute immediately for Celtic, which is impressive considering he’s only just moved from St Mirren and Rodgers has previously preferred to drip feed most new players into his squad. The winger got off the bench in last night’s game and showed up well – and we wouldn’t be surprised to see him start next week with the tie effectively over. It’s a bold shout, but expect Morgan to pick up the slack from Patrick Roberts this term.
4 – James Forrest Now Key
Is there a more important player in the Celtic squad right now? Fresh from his best season ever in a Hoops shirt, Forrest has started this campaign by looking very sharp in the final third. He set up Edouard’s opener last night before scoring himself and then laying on Callum McGregor for the third. With Celtic refusing to sign Roberts this summer, it’s a big confidence booster for Forrest and he should kick on to prove why Rodgers has shown so much faith in him.
5 – Not Many Signings to Come
Last summer, Celtic signed only Olivier Ntcham, Jonny Hayes and Kundai Benyu on permanent deals and you’d expect Rodgers to be similarly cautious in the transfer market this year too. Of course, they’ve lost Stuart Armstrong and Erik Sviatchenko already this summer, while Roberts has returned to Manchester City. But you look at the Hoops squad and think they wouldn’t be in too bad a shape if they were to make no signings between now and the end of the transfer window. So if Rodgers does decide to make any signings, don’t expect there to be many.