On the one hand he could mix it up, and give some of his fringe players – those he hasn’t loaned out – some game-time and rest some players on their busy schedule, on the other he may be loathe to disrupt a winning and impressive formula which the team has found in recent weeks.
Throw into the mix opponents who themselves are not a gimme and are chasing a promotion to join Celtic in the top flight next season and the manager has an intriguing decision to make on Saturday.
Celtic obviously have Europa Conference League football on the horizon with Bodo-Glimt in wait next week. That will have a bearing on the manager’s thinking, especially on the back of an exhaustive domestic schedule recently.
While ensuring progress past John McGlynn’s Kirkcaldy side at Parkhead will be a priority, doing so with the minimum of injury will be paramount, especially after the previous round in Alloa.
That night saw Callum McGregor and Yosuke Ideguchi injured and while both are now back in full training, it’s doubtful the captain will be risked given his protective facemask precautions recently.
That leaves the way for Nir Bitton to captain the side beside James McCarthy in midfield.
Celtic injury returns
While McGregor has already made his return, Yosuke Ideguchi is also now training with the squad after his Cup setback. He could be a midfield candidate but may have to make do with a space on the bench alongside Christopher Jullien, who is nearing the destination on the long road to recovery. Stephen Welsh may give Cameron Carter-Vickers a brief break and, all being well for Ange Postecoglou’s side, Jullien’s return could be completed from the bench later in the game with Carl Starfelt continuing in the center for continuity after himself finding consistency.
Josep Juranovic’s eye-catching form has been great news for Celtic – unless your name is Anthony Ralston. The Scottish defender has impressed this season too – but he’s being kept out by the full-back’s recent form though he can be expected to be given a game against the Rovers.
Scott Bain may also be in contention for a game to maintain his match sharpness, and Albian Ajeti could be preferred in attacking Giorgos Giakoumakis with the Swiss still a target for teams playing in markets still within their transfer window.
Liel Abada could join the Greek on the sidelines with Jota preferred for the first-team continuity, given his recent injury off-load.
That leaves one more space in midfield and while Reo Hatate is the man of the moment, he is likely to be rested ahead of the UEFA game on Thursday and it may well be handed to Ben Doak, Mikey Johnston or more likely Liam Scales to start , with the former pair making an entrance from the subs’ bench later in the game, given the Cup’s new five substitutes rule.
Predicted Celtic line-up: Bain, Taylor, Ralston, Welsh, Starfelt, Scales, McCarthy, Bitton, Jota, Ajeti, Maeda. Subs from: Johnston, Forrest, Moffat, Abada, Ideguchi, Jullien, Giakoumakis.
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