Celtic will look to book their place in the Europa League group stages for the third consecutive year, but standing in their way is a one-legged playoff tie against FK Sarajevo in Bosnia.
Neil Lennon’s men are no strangers to the Balkans, having faced off against Thursday’s opponents fifteen months ago in the UCL first-qualifying round; goals from Mikey Johnston, Odsonne Edouard and Scott Sinclair sealing a crucial 3-1 win to take back to Glasgow. The return-leg saw the Hoops stroll to a 5-2 win over both legs.
Though while we have that result in mind, it’s important to realise that this time around, things are different. There is no margin for error given the nature of the single-leg ties, meaning our players must be on the top of their game to ensure we progress.
Our 3-0 win over Hibs at the weekend was deserved, as we played some of our most complete football so far this season. It’s time to maintain that level of quality going into Thursday’s game.
Albian Ajeti hobbled off right after scoring on Sunday, a hamstring injury will see him miss this one. James Forrest is also set to be sidelined for a few of weeks with an ankle injury; Christopher Jullien is fit and back in the squad.
Here’s how Lennon could line his side up from the start.
GK: Vasilis Barkas
Has kept back-to-back clean sheets. Can hopefully make it three-in-a-row.
CB: Nir Bitton
Is looking comfortable on and off the ball. Deserves to keep his place ahead of Jullien given current form, and I think Lennon will ease the Frenchman back in (starting on the bench Thursday, starting XI Sunday).
CB: Shane Duffy
These are the kind of games the Irishman will relish playing in.
CB: Kristoffer Ajer
Potentially completing the back three is the Norwegian international. Will no doubt look to carry the ball out from the back; hopefully not too much, though.
RWB: Jeremie Frimpong
Constantly threatened Hibs down the right-flank and looked to inject some much-needed energy in attack. His performance earned him MOTM and rightly so.
LWB: Greg Taylor
Lennon will likely opt for Taylor down the left-side again. Needs to do better going forward.
CM: Scott Brown (C)
A better all-round performance from the captain at the weekend; hopefully he maintains that level.
CM: Callum McGregor
Another silky finish from outside of the box made it two goals in as many games for the midfield engine. A formidable member of this team.
CM: Ryan Christie
It’s likely that Lennon will stick with his all-Scottish midfield trio. Ntcham and Turnbull are both knocking at the door, which may mean other players will have to step up their game.
ST: Mohamed Elyounoussi
Followed on from his impressive showing against Riga with a goal and assist at the weekend. Will be given another start, once again playing just off of the striker.
ST: Odsonne Edouard
Came off the bench to replace the injured Ajeti 37 minutes in against Hibs. Linked-up well with Elyounoussi a couple of times and looked to get involved. Will hopefully find his best form again and hit the ground running.