Rangers were narrowly beaten in Europe on Thursday as Leipzig scored five minutes from time, with Giovanni van Bronckhorst throwing in a surprise as he set his team out in a conservative 5-3-2 formation.
In fairness, the Dutchman had his hands somewhat tied in the absence of top scorers Alfredo Morelos and Kemar Roofe, overlooking alternative option Fashion Sakala after the Zambian failed to impress last month when leading the line in their first-leg defeat to Braga in the previous round.
Morelos’ season is over and Roofe won’t return for this clash, and with Aaron Ramsey and Ianis Hagi also sidelined, the Gers are looking incredibly thin in attack. Midfielder Scott Wright and winger Ryan Kent formed the central partnership against Leipzig, with Joe Aribo sitting in behind as John Lundstrom slotted into the backline.
They did improve after the break when Aribo was pushed up into the number nine role, creating opportunities for Kent and James Tavernier, but van Bronckhorst can hardly afford a containment strategy here given anything other than a win will kill off their already faint title hopes.
Whereas Rangers are the walking wounded, Ange Postecoglou’s injury concerns have cleared up and he has nice problems to contend with.
Kyogo Furuhashi made a goalscoring return to the line-up last weekend and will compete with Giorgos Giakoumakis for a starting berth, and the latter may consider himself a tad unfortunate should he miss out having performed admirably during the Japanese ace’s lengthy absence.
Jota, Daizen Maeda, Liel Abada and James Forrest are all available in the wide areas, while in midfield only three of Reo Hatate, Callum McGregor, Matt O’Riley, Tom Rogic and David Turnbull will start.
Celtic To Win
Rangers may have secured local bragging rights a couple of weeks ago with their extra time win in the Scottish Cup semi-finals, but with their ranks depleted and little time to recover from their midweek exertions, it’s understandable that Celtic start this one as heavy favourites.
The Hoops head into this fixture off the back of seven wins from their past eight outings in all competitions, including sizeable scorelines hosting Ross County (4-0) and St. Johnstone (7-0). In fact, they’ve won 16 of 18 unbeaten home league games going back just over 12 months now, including all 10 since November, racking up 15 clean sheets over this period in total.
In addition, the Gers have shown a tendency to slip up on their travels, going W7-D3-L4 in 2022 across all competitions so far. That includes three defeats from their last six such games, albeit against European opposition as they went down to Crvena Zvezda, Braga and Leipzig.
However, a 3-0 defeat when they last visited Parkhead in February hints at the swing in momentum between the two sides this season, and Celtic will fancy their chances on home turf of wrapping up the title with time to spare.
CELTIC TO WIN
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