The match itself is a dead rubber in terms of the Europa League for Celtic. So it could be seen as a safe environment to try something new in the Celtic line up or tactics. But is it the right time for Neil Lennon to do so?
Is there such a thing as a safe environment for Celtic these days? The game against Lille has a different dimension to others. The board have given Lennon the month of December at least to show what he can do. They are backing him as manager until a review in the New Year, presumably after the Glasgow Derby. So while it’s a tough thing to say about any match played by the Hoops, the result against Lille doesn’t matter too much.
It does matter to Lille though, they have already qualified for the knock out stages, but a win at Parkhead means they top the group ahead of AC Milan. And that can make a big difference in who they draw in the next round. So this will be another difficult test for the Hoops.
The selection for the starting line up could be interesting, or we may see the usual faces, on the pitch and on the bench. Lennon talked a while back about the need to rest Scott Brown. And has then had him starting most games since.
Brown has been brought off the bench in a few games, but not sure it’s been the rest he has needed. Is this the opportunity to rest some players, to bring in fresh legs and minds? Or is this the time to try and get the main players back to some sort of form?
Barkas is likely to continue his run in goal. Bain offers nothing better and we’re not likely to suddenly see Hazard appear although the chance is there to pull out that wildcard. In defence many variations are possible. A settled defence is needed though and that indicates Christopher Jullien and Kris Ajer alongside each other.
We may see Greg Taylor depending on why Diego Laxalt was subbed off at the weekend. On the right, it’s either Hatem Abd Elhamed or Jeremie Frimpong, again no other logical options at the moment.
Up front, we are missing width, which will depend on how we deploy a back 3 or 4 in defence and how we use Frimpong and/or Mohammed Elyounoussi. Given his two goals in the away game in Lille, we can perhaps expect to see the Norwegian start on Thursday.
It’d be great to see Leigh Griffiths and Odsonne Edouard pair up but Lennon may be more likely to decide to have the Frenchman start alone. Albian Ajeti, if available after being out of the picture on Sunday, is a possible alternative. But surely only alongside Edouard, not instead of because he does not appear to be someone capable of leading the line.
The midfield is where any likely experimentation in the line up occurs. Is this where we see David Turnbull or Ismaila Soro in from the start rather than sneaking some minutes as a substitute? Is this where we see Brown or McGregor get a rest? Does Christie still warrant a start? Possibly Olivier Ntcham has eased himself down the pecking order, but he may be a bench option.
Lennon may well take a mixed approach, some experimentation, bringing players through and resting others. This could well be close to the line up below, though maybe not the exact formation. With the likes of Griffiths and Ajeti/Klimala on the bench. Soro is another one expected to get some game time from the bench too, but that may depend on how the match is going for Celtic.
Here’s how we think they should line-up in a game with nothing to play for but one which could end up being an opportunity to clear the mess up to some extent:
Hatem Abd Elhamed
What fans would like to see will very probably differ from what actually happens. Radical change is being demanded all over social media but it’s unlikely to be delivered. Some small steps to build on over future games may be best as a recovery plan.
Neil Lennon can still end up saving Celtic’s season.