With Ralph continuing to put working for a living ahead of writing an Etims Diary ( I know, I know!), lets try and fill the void of bampottery and look ahead to Sundays game against Aberdeen at Hampden.
Of course the first thing to note is not Sundays game but actually Saturdays game.
Hearts vs Inverness Caley. Its bad enough those two teams getting the first game and run at a ruining the pitch ahead of the 2 best teams in the country, but regardless of who progresses we could be facing Headline misery for weeks with Levein making wisecracks about the grass length or same old Super caley go ballistic references.
Their game will take care of themselves and if Hearts turn up then they should progress but I personally hope wee Robbo stuffs Leveins side and puts yet more dourness on the face of Anne Budge.
Moving onto Sunday and its very much a case of Hold or Twist for Lenny.
I suggested on Twitter recently that hes onto plums really in current caretaker role. Win and its expected, win poorly and its his fault, draw and its a disaster somehow. We havent seen a loss yet but if he does lose on Sunday, then the calls for his removal will be loudly ringing round Celtic Park. Given its Season Book renewal time, im sure Lawwell and Dermot will hear any outcry.
That’s if he loses of course.
Logic dictates that a win is on the cards.
Celtic have the better players, and the better squad.
‘Simples!’ as Theresa May once said.
I would say that the one major loss to players available to Lenny is Boyata. Even though the big guy will depart in the Summer with hardly a wave of goodbye from many Celts, he would have been handy against the walking Tower of Elbows that is Sam Cosgrove.
The Aberdeen striker is the proverbial “big lump a wid” but to his credit he scores goals and maximises his ability. Boyata would have been able to handle him without getting too involved.
Im not sure Benkovich has the physicality while Kris Ajer has the build but also can go to ground too easily or find himself tangled up in a physical battle and come off scarred. Cosgrove will be one to watch for sure in the red.
The Celtic side, mostly picks itself.
Scott(#1) Bain has been very good in goal since displacing Gordon ( away in the summer anyone?). The only worry is a few errant passes and decisions from Scott lately as we enter main part of the season. Hopefully he will be error free on Sunday.
Right back should be Lustig, providing he is fully fit. His reading of the game, providing an outlet for Bain and centre halves and ability to organise colleagues is balanced by his lack of pace or ability to really overlap these days but he offers better overall than the loannee Jeremy Toljan who hasnt did anything to inspire the board to make his stay permanent.
Centre halves will likely be Benkovich and Ajer. Both comfortable with the ball at their feet and both good players. They just have to ensure they co–ordinate and of course be wary of both Cosgrove and his knockdown second balls for runners.
Left back will be captain in waiting Kieran Tierney. Not a wonderful season so far given injuries but hopefully the next few weeks can see the green Brigades Honorary megaphone champ lead the Celtic charge to needed wins.
Thats the Defence, now we come to the tricky park for Lenny.
The Midfield and forward lines.
Scott(#2) Broony is a given. As is CalMac. So should be Christie, especially after that League Cup final winner in Hampden versus Aberdeen. We are all for history repeating. Forrest will be sure of a place. Edouard will more than likely be called upon to lead the line.
Now… who else do you play?
Olivier Ntcham?..came back against the Huns and did ok. Can be a big game player when on his game but jury is still out and probably the same for Lenny. Provides a good pivot but can disappear at times. Will he be okay against the rough and tumble on a cut up pitch, time will tell but will Lenny sacrifice attack to help Broony in the middle?
Rogic? Hes looked fragile and is still trying to find his fitness. Also Im not sure if Lennys positioning suits his style of play on his present fitness levels. WOuld he be better as a super sub, either to hold onto the ball or to find that wonder opening. Possibly replacing Christie who is also still returning from a bad injury himself.
Sinclair?..Scott(#3) seems to have fallen out of favour yet knows how to score. Lot of recent paper\web talk of Lenny not fancying him and fans seem divided. If he had scored on that chance against McGregor lately then that could have been the wee boost he needed to secure that contract extension but it wasnt to be.
Olly Burke?..came in under Rodgers and had a great start. Looked the proverbial £15m player, now looks like Harald Brattbakk in his finest “second touch a tackle” phase. Not sure how unsettling Rodgers going was for him or how Lennys arrival has impacted him but not the same player, shame really as looked like he could fit in so well too.
Timo Weah?..is he shite in training? Another loannee like Burke that came in and flew iut the traps. Now, we are lucky to ever see him. The boy seems to love being here but already paper talk is of his departure come seasons end. A shame really but hopefully we can see him get a run out alongside his mate Eddy at some stage before its over.
Johnny Hayes..who would have thunk it!..Looks like Hayes will likely start to provide some grit and drive. Not got the class of the players above him but has the biggest heart and Lenny will appreciate that determination in such a clash,. Of course this once again risks losing both he and Tierney to injury so Calmac to end the game at left back may be a bet for the day!
Other possibilities are Mikey Johnston and young Henderson but they will at very best make the bench.
So likely team
LUSTIG AJER BENKOVICH TIERNEY
FORREST BROON CALMAC HAYES
Tactic board suggestion:
Its an attacking based team but Lenny may go cautious and plump for Ntcham to help Broony, ..especially if expecting Aberdeen to go tough and physical but would you really leave out Calmac or Christie. hopefully not. They two were our best pair under Rodgers.
If the pitch isnt too bad, we could get the ball down and play. Scott McKenna is no world class defender at present and providing we can get Edouard driving forward and Forrest and Christie linking up with our front man, then we should make plenty of chances.
We just need to be clinical. Lets see our forwards drive the ball home and no piss poor attempts at passing it into the net. Just bang it in and lets get the job done.
As for Aberdeen. They wont be overawed and know this is their last chance of a successful season.
Badger face McInnes will be hopeful he can continue his decent run in Glasgow. Hes beat Rangers at Ibrox in the Cup already so they know they can score in Glasgow even if they didnt at Celtic Park recently.
Whoever comes in for absent Captain Shinnie ( cheers Monti!) will no doubt be kicking everything and anything in his honour and Lewis Ferguson will be hoping to make his Dad Derek proud. Niall McGinn will be looking to score but the Celtic defence should be able to deal with any attacks including the noted Cosgrove.
So in conclusion.
Get the ball down, get playing and keep our composure.
Protect our keeper at set pieces and beware of a referee intent on killing the Treble Treble at all times.
Do this, and the game should be ours to win.
We have the players. We have the will.
We just need Lenny, John and Damien to get them relaxed and fresh and raring to go with anticipation rather than trepidation. That seems to be the difference under Lenny. the team doesnt look relaxed enough, hopefully that will return on Sunday afternoon.
Etims prediction: 2-0
Whats your thoughts?