Celtic vs Motherwell Preview
Tomorrow’s encounter with third placed Motherwell has the makings of a fine game of football. Well Manager Stephen Robinson, who has been linked with filling the vacant posts at Hearts and the N Ireland national team, has done a pretty remarkable job at Fir Park in recent times, bearing in mind the number of key players he has lost at the end of the last couple of seasons. He has an amazing knack of finding new players to fill those voids from England and elsewhere (I think they’ve currently got more Englishmen than Scots in their first team squad), very often guys with potential or who have quality and some experience but never really got the breaks their talents merited down south, gets them to work to their strengths, gives their confidence a badly-needed boost and moulds them into a very competitive outfit on the field. He’s obviously a great motivator and man manager and recent results speak for themselves. Third position and third highest scoring team with a string of impressive wins against the likes of Hibs, Hearts, Livi and Killie. Not bad for a club operating on a shoestring budget. Sure, they had a nasty hiccup a few weeks ago when the sheep took them apart on their own turf but they were seriously understrength that day while they can consider themselves less than fortunate not to take something at Ibrox the other week.
After our European bliss this game is not to be taken lightly.
Robinson’s got a number of men that are really playing out of their skins at the moment and those would include big Declan Gallagher and Pete Hartley in the centre of defence, the ultra consistent RB Liam Grimshaw (POTM for October), top scorer (with 5 goals including a fine one against us) Liam Donelly, fellow midfielders Allan Campbell (MOTM last week against Livi) and Liam Polworth, while bustling centre-forward Chris Long also has an eye for goal. Donnelly is suspended for the game at CP so it’s unclear as to who his replacement might be – will they go for Mark O’Hara (steady but unspectacular), 21 y.o. Barry Maguire or even finally give a debut to great Dane Casper Sloth (love the name). Maguire was totally out of his depth in the recent Aberdeen mauling so would constitute a weakness for them in midfield were he to start.
The Steelmen have a completely different style to the ultra-defensive Kilmarnock; they’re dynamic and direct although they have no problem recoiling and getting bodies back quickly into their own area when under attack. In fact they’ve been playing with a Barça style (don’t take me too seriously) 4-3-3 and are likely to go with pretty much the same players who have been so successful for them of late. Their forward players are likely to sit much deeper for much of the game, however. They’ll probably go for something like this tomorrow:
Grimshaw Gallagher Hartley Carroll
O’Hara Campbell Polworth
Over in Paradise we can only hope that the players have had sufficient time to recuperate from their superhuman efforts the other night in Rome and that noone else, other than Elhamed, has received any kind of injury problem. We all know that at least 2 or 3 changes should be made for a tough league game in such circumstances although I’m sure Lenny won’t go overboard and field an almost unrecognisable team. So, with Elhamed out and Bolingoli unlikely to be risked Frimpong and Taylor seem likely options to start. Nir Bitton might also be given a rare start either in midfield or in a CB role.
It might be a temptation to give Calmac a break just for once. Perhaps Rogic could come in with the intention of resting Ryan Christie and we might even see Mikey Johnston make a comeback. If he’s somewhere near match fit I’ve got no problem with Griff making the bench and possibly coming on in the 2nd half to take some of the weight off big Odsonne’s shoulders. That would depend on how the game is going, of course.
One of my biggest disappointments so far this season regarding our playing staff has been the often mysterious events affecting our Ukrainian international Marian Shved. It’s a pity as the young man has bags of skill and could have been a very useful understudy to James Forrest but I instinctively have a bad feeling about this one. He’s under contract for a few years but I just hope this doesn’t turn out to be another Boerrigter or Compper catastrophe.
Anyway, we should be fine in this game if we keep the heid. Plenty of grit and determination with our natural fast flowing, varied, incisive vertical football doing the rest. We’re bound to create heaps of chances so ideally we’ll be clinical in front of goal and grab a nice cushion of two or three goals early doors.
Frimpong Ajer Jullien Taylor
Forrest Rogic Johnston
Subs: Gordon, Bauer, Hayes, McGregor, Christie, Elyounoussi, Griffiths
Prediction: Celtic 3 Motherwell 0
Scorers: Rogic, Edouard, Forrest