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Celtic’s season has already gotten off to a bad start as they were dumped out of the second qualifying round for the Champions League, just like they were in the previous campaign. Midtjylland’s winner came in extra time, but it was familiar territory with defensive weaknesses once again laid bare.
There’s still no clear first choice goalkeeper with both Vasilis Barkas and Scott Bain failing to convince, while the best options in defence also remain unclear.
With Christopher Jullien sidelined by injury and Kristoffer Ajer having departed for Brentford, a centre-back pairing of Dane Murray and Stephen Welsh was deployed against Midtjylland, with those two 18 and 21 years old respectively.
New recruit Carl Starfelt could make his debut this weekend in the heart of defence, but having been unavailable so far after a period of quarantine, won’t have had the opportunity to build relationships on the training ground with potential partners.
A lack of new signings has been compounded by departures, with the likes of Diego Laxalt, Jonjoe Kenny, Shane Duffy, Scott Brown and Mohamed Elyounoussi also leaving the club this summer.
The club currently has no head of recruitment or a sporting director, with majority shareholder Dermot Desmond taking the lead in that department, and so new manager Ange Postecoglou’s task to refresh the squad is an unenviable one.
Both Teams To Score
Although the Hoops’ backline appears shaky, they retain some quality in attack, even if star striker Odsonne Edouard appears to be hankering for a move.
With that in mind, there should be plenty of goals on display and that’s certainly been the case in head-to-heads with Hearts in recent years.
Across all competitions, 19 of 22 meetings since October 2015 have seen a minimum of three goals, with the two most recent encounters seeing Celtic win 5-0 in February 2020 and then a 3-3 draw after extra time in the Scottish Cup in December of that same year.
Hearts spent a season in the Championship last term but were comfortable winners in the end, finishing 12 points ahead of second-placed Dundee.
They held by far the best attack and defence in the division, with their +39 goal difference well ahead of Dundee and Raith Rover’s +9.
Celtic have registered just 14 clean sheets from 34 games on their travels over the past two league campaigns and so Hearts will fancy their chances of registering in this game.
Liam Boyce has already netted in three of four games this season for Hearts in their League Cup group, though he’s not their only threat with five different players registering on the scoreboard so far.
They also kept clean sheets in each of these, though Peterhead, Cove Rangers, Stirling Albion and Inverness can’t compare with Celtic’s forward line and both teams should find the net here.