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Celtic raiding Man City for this 22-year-old on a cut-price deal would be a shrewd move to boost attacking depth

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Celtic Opinion: Brandon Barker could prove to be a useful signing for the Hoops

According to The Scottish Sun, Celtic are weighing up a cut-price deal for Man City winger Brandon Barker in the summer transfer window, with reports claiming that Hoops manager Neil Lennon is keen to reunite with his former Hibernian player at Parkhead.

The Scottish Sun understands that the 22-year-old has only one year left on his contract at Man City and the Citizens could be tempted to cash in on him this summer.

Barker spent the 2017-18 season on loan at Hibernian and earned rave reviews from Lennon, who is now intent on bringing the youngster to Parkhead to bolster his forces, with the Scottish Sun claiming that he is still a big admirer of the 22-year-old.

The Manchester-born winger spent this past season on loan at Preston North End in the Championship but he made just 20 appearances for Alex Neil’s side in all competitions, chipping in with 2 goals and 2 assists. Barker’s loan spell at the Deepdale Stadium was the fourth of his City career, having previously featured for Rotherham United, Hibernian, as well as NAC Breda in the Dutch second-tier.

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Barker, 22, is nearing a stage in his career where he needs to enter his prime years very soon, although he is still very much in the developmental stage of his career. The youngster has already had loan stints at four different clubs and he needs to settle down somewhere sooner rather than later in order to realise his potential.

Given the level of competition in the first-team at Man City, it is highly unlikely that he would get a look in from Pep Guardiola, meaning that a permanent move away from the Etihad could help him kick start his career.

Keeping that in mind, the prospect of a move to Celtic this summer should appeal to the player, not only because he has previously worked with Neil Lennon, but the possibility of playing European football should also convince him to move north of the border.

To put things into perspective, it is not difficult to see why Celtic would strike gold with the signing of Brandon Barker. The 22-year-old’s familiarity with the manager and his imminent availability in a cut-price deal should prompt the Hoops to complete a swoop for the promising winger.

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Celtic not only bagged their eighth straight domestic league title this past season but the Hoops also completed the domestic treble for the third time in a row.

As things stand, Celtic are way ahead of arch-rivals Rangers in all aspects of the game and their unparalleled dominance in Scottish football has reigned supreme for almost a decade but the Hoops also need to aim higher on the European front.

As we all know, there is little room for complacency in football and Celtic should continue to look for young and promising players in the market in order to keep moving in the right direction.

Barker certainly fits the bill and the Hoops have every reason to look at the 22-year-old as a like-for-like replacement for the likes of Timothy Weah and Oliver Burke. Both the loanees have returned to their parent clubs and the Hoops need to bring in reinforcements to ensure that they have the perfect balance in their attack heading into the upcoming season.

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Essentially a right-footed attacker, Barker is at his best when deployed as an inverted winger down the left, which allows him to bring his pace, flair and trickery to cut inside. He has got a great eye for key passes and defence-splitting through balls in the final third, and at 22, there is still plenty of time left for him to make significant improvements to his game.

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In all probability, Scott Sinclair is going to continue as the first-choice down the left-hand side of the pitch for the Hoops next term, but bringing in someone like Barker would provide much-needed cover and increase competition for places. That said, Celtic should go all out in their pursuit of the Man City winger this summer.

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Celtic

Rangers 0-2 Celtic: 3 talking points from the Old Firm Derby as Gerrard’s tactics failed miserably

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Rangers 0-2 Celtic: 3 talking points from the Old Firm Derby

Celtic completely outclassed Rangers 2-0 at Ibrox in the Scottish Premiership on Sunday as Odsonne Edouard’s opener in the first half and a second from substitute Jonny Hayes in injury-time ensured that the Hoops strengthened their position at the top of the table. 

Having secured qualification to the group stages of the Europa League with impressive victories in the playoffs, both the Old Firm rivals went into the game on Sunday brimming with confidence, but it was Celtic who laid down an early title marker in the first derby of the season. 

Steven Gerrard opted to leave Europa League playoff hero Alfredo Morelos on the bench, with Jerman Defoe getting the nod as the No.9 in the derby. Additionally, the Gers went in with a very narrow and compact 4-3-3 system, flooding the central areas with more players at the expense of some genuine width. 

Neil Lennon, on the other hand, brought in Hatem Abd Elhamed in place of the injured Kristoffer Ajer at right-back, with Celtic fielding a completely new look backline in the derby as compared to the previous campaign. 

It wasn’t the most aesthetic game that you would ever see and after an opening half-hour where chances were few and far between, Mikey Johnstone outsmarted Conor Goldson to set it up for Odsonne Edouard, who scored his fifth goal against Rangers to put the Hoops 1-0 up.

To say that Rangers were below-par for almost the entirety of the game would not be an understatement, as the Gers failed to muster any sort of a meaningful reply after conceding that goal. Substitutes Sheyi Ojo and Morelos somewhat improved them in the second half but it was never going to be enough to break Celtic down.

Jonny Hayes took his chance really well in the third minute of injury time before the game ended, with Jordan Jones receiving a straight card for a cynical hack on Moritz Bauer. Here are 3 key talking points from the Old Firm derby.

1. Edouard made the difference again

Odsonne Edouard’s opener at Ibrox on Sunday was the Frenchman’s fifth goal against the Gers and the second time that he scored the winner on enemy territory.

The Frenchman wasn’t always in the game but he contributed a lot with his clever touches and smart hold-up play, gratefully accepting the only clear-cut chance the fell to him in the game.

Edouard’s winner at Ibrox was reminiscent of the big-game specialism that Moussa Dembele used to showcase during his illustrious spell at Celtic and his latest goal would definitely have raised his stocks amongst the fans. 

2. Steven Gerrard’s tactical blunder and lack of energy from Rangers

Rangers’ approach to the game resembled a funnel, as Gerrard compromised some genuine width to flood the central areas of the pitch with a view to blocking the passing lanes and frustrating Celtic. 

One would have expected Gerrard to field some out-and-out pacey wingers to capitalise on Celtic’s rather unsettled backline but neither Scott Arfield nor Joe Aribo did enough to put the defenders under any real pressure. 

Defoe was largely anonymous due to a lack of supply and while substitutes Ojo and Morelos breathed life into the game, Rangers apparently never had the energy to press Celtic off the ball and get themselves back into the game. 

James Tavernier and Glen Kamara, who are usually very influential in their respective roles, looked completely off the pace, ineffective and lethargic, whilst centre-back Goldson came up with one of his worst ever performances for the Gers.

It was a combination of tired legs after a hard-fought playoff victory in the Europa League playoffs and some poor reading of the game by Gerrard that led to Rangers’ downfall on Sunday. 

3. Celtic’s backline rose to the occasion very well

The back four consisting of Elhamed, Christopher Jullien, Nir Bitton and Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo exceeded all expectations and while Rangers played it into their hands to some extent with some poor tactical nous and below-par attacking play, the Celtic defenders deserve all the credit for a well-earned clean sheet.

Apart from Bitton, the other three defenders at the back had their first taste of the derby atmosphere this Sunday and Neil Lennon would have been happy to see them rise to the occasion and deliver the goods when it mattered the most.

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[Image] Predicted 4-3-3 Celtic FC XI to face AIK in the Europe League playoffs – can the Hoops secure the win?

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Predicted 4-3-3 Celtic FC XI to face AIK in the Europe League playoffs

Celtic FC romped home to a comfortable 3-1 victory over Hearts at home in the Scottish Premiership on Sunday as Callum McGregor’s strike in the second half sandwiched by own goals from Christophe Berra and Craig Halkett ensured that the Hoops preserved their perfect start to the campaign. 

Celtic’s Champions League aspirations came to an end with a 5-4 aggregate defeat against Romanian giants Cluj in the third qualifying round but they have a chance to make it to the group stages of the Europa League after beating Swedish outfit AIK 2-0 away from home last week. 

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Neil Lennon’s side will be the clear favourites to make it through to the group stages, as they carry a two-goal lead to Sweden on Thursday night. 

Team News

Neil Lennon is expected to make a few changes to the eleven that played against Hearts on Sunday, with the Old Firm derby against Rangers in the waiting too. 

Celtic travel to Sweden with a few injury concerns, as Hatem Abd Elhamed, Scott Bain and Tom Rogic are expected to miss the trip. However, the manager is likely to have most of the first-team players at his disposal for selection.

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Predicted Celtic XI

Formation: 4-3-3

Fraser Forster (GK)

The towering shot-stopper was catapulted into the starting eleven against Hearts upon his return to Parkhead and he is expected to start ahead of Craig Gordon between the sticks.

Kristoffer Ajer (RB)

The Norwegian has been a real revelation at right-back in recent games and he is likely to continue in that role on Thursday. 

Christopher Jullien (CB)

The Frenchman has proven himself to be worthy of every penny for the Hoops so far this season and there is no reason why he should be left out of the away leg despite the Old Firm derby around the corner. 

Jozo Simunovic (CB)

Nir Bitton started at the back on Sunday against Hearts but the Croatian is expected to get the nod after a calm and composed display in the 2-0 first-leg victory.  

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Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo (LB)

The new signing excelled with his pace, energy and link-up play down the flanks in the first leg and he is expected to be handed another start on Thursday. 

Scott Brown (CM)

The veteran is usually the one who controls the game for Celtic in the middle of the park and his experience might prove to be a deciding factor in the all-important clash.

James Forrest (RAM)

One of Celtic’s most influential players over the past few years, the Scottish international is the club’s indispensable weapon down the flanks and he will be in high spirits after scoring in the 2-0 victory in the first leg. 

Callum McGregor (LAM)

The homegrown star was one of the standout performers against the Swedish opposition last week and he is expected to be one of the first names on the teamsheet this time around as well.

Ryan Christie (RW)

The attacking midfielder tormented the Swedes with his tireless running, energy and creativity in the first leg and he definitely deserves another start. 

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Mikey Johnstone (LW)

The youngster has produced some dazzling displays early in the campaign and he was virtually unplayable against AIK last week.

Odsonne Edouard (ST)

Vakoun Issouf Bayo started against Hearts but Celtic’s first-choice No.9 should be back in the starting eleven on Thursday.

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Griffiths and Bayo to lead the line? Predicted 3-4-1-2 Celtic XI to face Dunfermline Athletic in the Betfred Cup

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Celtic FC vs Dunfermline Athletic prediction: Celtic FC line-up

Celtic will host Dunfermline Athletic in the Betfred Cup on Saturday after a shock defeat at the hands of Romanian outfit CFR Cluj saw their Champions League dreams come to an end.

It’s been a difficult couple of days to get through so far but the Hoops have to bounce back with a convincing victory over Dunfermline Athletic to change the mood.

Neil Lennon could ring the changes for the weekend’s Betfred Cup tie.

Team News

Goalkeeper Scott Bain picked up a hand injury during the loss against Cluj but finished the game. However, he has now been ruled out for upto two months.

Probable Celtic XI

Formation: 3-4-1-2

Manager: Neil Lennon

Craig Gordon (GK)

With Bain out injured, Gordon naturally comes back in goal for Saturday’s game.

Christopher Jullien (RCB)

Jullien, surprisingly, didn’t start in the embarrassing loss to Cluj. However, he is expected to come back into Lennon’s starting XI.

Nir Bitton (CB)

Like Jullien, Bitton was an unused substitute in the last game. With the Europa League play-off game against AIK coming up, Lennon could freshen things up by handing Bitton a start.

Kristoffer Ajer (LCB)

Ajer struggled against Cluj’s attackers on Tuesday but Lennon is expected to stick with the towering Norwegian.

Anthony Ralston (RWB)

With Hatem Abd Elhamed yet to fully get into the grips of the Scottish league, the Celtic boss could hand an opportunity to Anthony Ralston on the right.

Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo (LWB)

Bolingoli has looked unconvincing at the back following his summer move from Austria Vienna. But he could be handed a chance to impress at left wing-back against Dunfermline.

Scott Brown (CM)

Celtic’s leader on and off the pitch, Brown continues to play every game for the club under Lennon, and should start.

Olivier Ntcham (CM)

Though the partnership Ntcham and Brown didn’t work out against Cluj, Lennon could go with the same pair on Saturday.

Ryan Christie (CAM)

Christie will add creativity and a punch of guile to the team. He will be raring to get on the score-sheet again.

Leigh Griffiths (LS)

With the Europa League game against AIK on the horizon, Lennon could freshen up his attack by bringing in Griffiths in place of Edouard.

Vakoun Issouf Bayo (RS)

Vakoun Issouf Bayo has struggled with fitness since joining the club in January. However, Lennon should give the pacey Ivorian a proper outing at home in the Betfred Cup game.

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