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Boyata and Griffiths to start – Predicted 4-2-3-1 Celtic XI to face RB Salzburg

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Predicted Celtic XI to face RB Salzburg in the Europa League

Celtic will face off against Austrian champions RB Salzburg in their second Group B encounter of the 2018/19 UEFA Europa League at Red Bull Arena on Thursday.

The Scottish champions began their Europa League campaign with a 1-0 win over Rosenborg at home two weeks ago, courtesy a late Leigh Griffiths’ strike. Following that game, the Bhoys have won two and lost one of their games in the domestic competitions.

Brendan Rodgers’ side will come into the game on the back of a 1-0 win over Aberdeen but will have a tough task of getting past the group leaders away from home.

Ahead of the encounter, let’s take a look as to how the Hoops might take the field in Austria.

Team News

Celtic will be without centre-back Kristoffer Ajer while Filip Benkovic is also doubtful. Odsonne Edouard is back in training after being injured in the weekend encounter against the Dons.

Manager: Brendan Rodgers

Formation: 4-2-3-1

Craig Gordon (GK)

The veteran Scottish international is the undisputed first-choice for the Hoops and should start between the sticks on Thursday night.

Mikael Lustig (RB)

The Swedish full-back has drawn some ire for his performances of late but remains Celtic’s best option at right-back ahead of Cristian Gamboa.

Jack Hendry (CB)

Given the injuries to Benkovic and Ajer, Jack Hendry should get the nod, despite having failed to convince of his abilities.

Dedryck Boyata (CB)

After his summer antics, the Belgian has turned a corner and has been impressive since returning to the first-team setup. Should partner Hendry at the back at the Red Bull Arena.

Kieran Tierney (LB)

One of the most talented young left-backs across Europe, Kieran Tierney is a guaranteed starter for the Scottish champions week in week out.

Scott Brown (CM)

Club captain Scott Brown is an influential presence in the middle of the park for the Hoops. Brings bite and tenacity to the field and has the ability to start attacks from deep.

Olivier Ntcham (CM)

The Frenchman has grown into a pivotal part of the Hoops’ side. Has scored four and set up one more in 15 appearances across all competitions and should partner Brown in the middle.

James Forrest (RW)

The Scottish international signed a new long-term contract with Celtic recently. With the team struggling for goals, the winger must step up and improve his returns from the right flank.

Tom Rogic (CAM)

The Australian attacking midfielder has the quality and the skill needed to open up defences with his passes. Should start in the No.10 role for the Bhoys.

Callum McGregor (LW)

The 25-year-old Scotsman has been used on the left side by Rodgers in the ongoing campaign and should play ahead of Scott Sinclair, despite the Englishman scoring the winner against Aberdeen.

Read More: Three strikers Celtic must target to solve their goalscoring woes – including this £10m Premier League superstar

Leigh Griffiths (ST)

With Edouard returning from a minor injury, the Scottish striker should get the nod to lead the line in Austria, having scored the only goal against Rosenborg in Celtic’s previous European assignment.

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Brighton and Hove Albion

Brighton should seriously consider signing this exciting Scottish talent on a cut-price deal in January

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Brighton should go all out to land Callum McGregor in January

Brighton manager Chris Hughton is a long-term admirer of Scottish midfielder Callum McGregor and wants to bring the 25-year-old Celtic star to Amex Stadium in January, claims the Guardian.

A product of Celtic’s youth system, Mcgregor made his senior debut for the Scottish giants in 2014 and has established himself as a hot property in the Scottish Premiership. The 25-year-old has made a total of 186 appearances for the club across all competitions, finding the back of the net on 35 occasions. McGregor also spent time on loan at League One side Notts County in 2013/14, where he scored 14 goals.

Brighton have made a decent start to their Premier League campaign and the Seagulls currently sit 13th in the standings with 8 points from their first 8 games. The Seagulls took everyone by surprise when they beat Manchester United 3-2 in their second game but Hughton’s side has blown hot and cold since then.

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Brighton made headlines in the transfer market by signing Iranian star Alireza Jahanbakhsh. However, the former AZ Alkmaar man is yet to make a significant impact.

Defender Lewis Dunk has strung together some consistent performances at the back and received a call-up to Gareth Southgate’s England side. Also, Anthony Knockaert and Solly March have been influential down the flanks while the 35-year-old Glenn Murray has proven that he is far from a spent force in the Premier League.

However, Brighton do not have the best scoring record in the Premier League, having scored only 9 goals so far. To be honest, most of the creative play has come from the wings and Hughton doesn’t have a versatile creative midfielder.

In Davy Propper and Beram Kayal, the Seagulls have two good quality central midfielders who can contribute to the build-up play in the attacking third but are not capable of sparking creativity.

Brighton need a versatile midfielder who is capable of playing in multiple positions in the midfield and Callum McGregor is the perfect choice.

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McGregor, who has represented Scotland at all youth levels and the senior level, is primarily an attacking midfielder who is also capable of playing as a right midfielder and a central attacking midfielder.

Although he is often deployed in a No.10 role behind the striker, he can also play in a deep position due to his technical abilities and tactical awareness.

The 25-year-old has a sound technique which allows him to maintain good close control and drive forward with pace. He is a nimble-footed player who is capable of cutting inside from the right with his stronger left foot and doesn’t hesitate to test the goalkeeper with powerful and accurate shots.

McGregor is a good No.10 but struggles to get into the game at times. He is more comfortable in a deeper role from where he can dictate terms in the midfield with his neat and tidy passing.

Operating from a deeper role, not only does he link up the play efficiently with his teammates but also drives forward with pace and gets into the box to score goals. Furthermore, he is a two-footed player who is renowned as a distance shooter.

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Read More:- 73 tackles and 60 interceptions – Brighton must do everything to hold onto this 27-year-old powerhouse

Hence, acquiring Callum McGregor’s services could potentially bolster Brighton’s forces significantly. It would also allow Solly March to operate from the flanks instead of playing as a No.10.

Furthermore, with McGregor in the team as a supporting playmaker, Hughton can utilize Jahanbakhsh in a supporting role behind Glenn Murray.

That said, McGregor is definitely an exciting proposition for the Seagulls and they should go all out to land him in January for what might be a cut-price deal.

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Celtic

This double treble-winning manager should be ideal to replace Rafa Benitez at Newcastle – Agreed?

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Brendan Rodgers is the ideal successor to Rafael Benitez at Newcastle

According to the Mirror, Newcastle United are considering former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers as a replacement for Rafael Benitez, provided the Spaniard fails to get the team back to winning ways in the Premier League.

However, the fans sympathize with Benitez and believe that he has done a fairly good job, given that he has had to work under a lot of financial constraints. (h/t Mirror)

Benitez is currently in the final year of his contract at St. James’ Park and the 58-year-old is unwilling to sign an extension as he hasn’t received certain assurances. (h/t Mirror)

Benitez took charge of Newcastle in the latter half of the 2015/16 season when the Magpies were fighting to stay alive in the Premier League. Although Benitez did a good job at reassembling his unit, it wasn’t enough to avoid relegation. However, Newcastle did well under Benitez in the Championship and earned promotion back to the top flight after a year’s absence.

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Things have gone horribly wrong for the Magpies this season, however, and Benitez’s men are currently in the relegation zone with only two points so far. Goalless draws against Crystal Palace and Cardiff City have been Newcastle’s best results so far. They could have had their first win of the season against Manchester United had they not collapsed in the last 20 minutes.

Benitez has every right to argue that five out of the six losses came against teams in the top six. However, the upcoming fixtures against Brighton, Southampton and Watford might go a long way in deciding his fate at the club.

Now, Benitez’s ultra-defensive tactics haven’t brought the best out the team. As a matter of fact, Newcastle had only 19% of the possession against Chelsea and 21% against Manchester City. They allowed the opposition to pass the ball around with ease and dictate the proceedings.

The Magpies have been guilty of sitting way too deep inside their own half and haven’t shown any intention of winning the ball back. Consequently, there has been no supply from the midfield, leaving the attackers to feed on scraps.

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Quite surprisingly, Benitez hasn’t made any effort to change the shape of his team and switch formations. He has seemed pretty much married to either a 4-4-1-1 or a 5-4-1 which hasn’t done any good so far.

Brendan Rodgers, on the other hand, has tasted grand success in the Scottish Premiership with Celtic. Following his appointment in 2016, the 45-year-old has guided Celtic to back-to-back Scottish Premiership titles. He won the award for the Scottish Premiership Manager of the Season in 2016/17.

Rodgers had tasted considerable success in the Premier League as well with Swansea City and Liverpool. He was Swansea’s manager when they won the Championship play-offs in 2010/11, becoming the first-ever Wales-based team to secure promotion to the Premier League. He had some lean patches in his time at Liverpool but never hesitated to change things and always showed the intent to force the outcome.

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Read More:- Go for it Benitez – Signing this €15million superstar is definitely the need of the hour for Newcastle United

Rodgers usually adopts a free-flowing possession-based style football and defensively, his team thrives while pressurizing the opposition. This should work in favour of Newcastle as he could change the formation and the tactics to allow the team to hold on to the ball for longer periods.

Rafael Benitez seems to be living on borrowed time but the management will probably wait for another two or three games and then assess his position. If he fails to get the campaign back on track, they will be forced to pull the trigger sooner or later.  

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Celtic

St. Johnstone 0-6 Celtic: Match report and more as Brendan Rodgers’ men annihilated the home side

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St. Johnstone 0-6 Celtic: The Hoops show signs of dominance

Is it at all surprising that on the same weekend that Kris Boyd talked of a deep schism within the Celtic dressing room (h/t Daily Record), Brendan Rodgers’ men delivered a performance of the highest order? In fact, it was perhaps a performance that they’ve been threatening to unleash since August but never found the form to do so until now.

St. Johnstone simply had no answer for the pace, intelligence and understanding of the away side’s attack. Celtic’s first-half performance was by far their best of the season so far, with James Forrest unstoppable on the right-wing.

One might have been deemed a fool to suggest that the player could score four goals before half-time but Forrest played as a man possessed; a man hurt from his side’s poor showing against Red Bull Salzburg in the Europa League.

His first goal was fortuitous, capitalising on Zander Clark’s decent save to score an open goal but his next three were pure skill. He linked with playmaker Tom Rogic for the second and the third, with the Australian playing his partner through the St. Johnstone defence.

After that, Forrest gathered the ball beyond the halfway line and ran determinedly at the opposition defence for his fourth, driving infield and planting a simple left-footed shot into the corner of the net. Each time he celebrated by grabbing the Celtic crest upon his jersey in front of his adoring supporters, he looked like a vital player of this team.

After such a torrid half, manager Tommy Wright was left fuming since Danny Swanson saw red only three minutes into the second-half, swiping down the electrifying Forrest in a defying act against a player he couldn’t cope with.

The Hoops could have scored more goals against a depleted home side but Rodgers’ men somewhat relaxed proceedings and settled the game down. Their sixth and final goal didn’t arrive until the 84th minute, coming after some intricate link-up play between Mikael Lustig and Callum McGregor, leading to the latter slotting into an empty net to cap a fine result.

Read More: This 42-goal attacker could be exactly what Celtic are missing right now

Harder games will await Celtic after the international break, with Neil Lennon’s high-flying Hibernian up next. As far as Wright is concerned, he still has his team above the relegation zone but his players seem to be lacking in confidence and this break should do St. Johnstone well to regroup and plan for the tough season ahead.

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