Serial winners Celtic will kick off their domestic campaign tomorrow looking to carry on their indomitable domestic silverware streak. The Hoops are in fine form and are looking good going into the season.
Neil Lennon’s side have won each of their four Champions League qualifier games and most of the players have looked in good touch and have collected substantial minutes under their belt.
On the other hand, their opponents St. Johnstone are in a spot of bother given their torrid recent form. They crashed out in the Betfred Cup group stage losing to Forfar and Montrose thus attracting a fair amount of criticism. But manager Tommy Wright has defended his team and lashed out at what he called ‘negativity which people want to create regarding the club’.
Even though the Saints will be missing a number of players, looking at the near future, the manager was bullish in his assessment.
“It’s almost like there has been a black cloud over the place since we missed out on top six a couple of seasons ago. We have finished 8th and 7th since then, while bringing the age of the squad right down and looking to the future.
“I think people need to have a reality check. When we have Drey Wright, Mikey O’Halloran, Danny Swanson and Matty Kennedy up top – with a striker still to come – nobody can tell me that isn’t an exciting proposition.”
CELTIC TEAM NEWS
Defenders Jozo Simunovic and Christopher Jullien are suspended for the opening clash but Lennon has options to fall back upon.
Celtic’s second most expensive signing Christopher Jullien won’t be able to make his Premiership bow tomorrow as he is carrying over a suspension from Toulouse’s last Ligue 1 game of the previous season.
PREDICTED CELTIC LINEUP VS ST.JOHNSTONE (4-2-3-1)
We are backing Scott Bain to start in goal even though Craig Gordon put up a decent showing in the 2-0 win over Nomme Kalju.
A debut is in store for right-back Hatem Abd Elhamed who will have to get acclimatised, with crucial UCL games coming up.
Lennon is a bit short in the central defensive department and will have to revert to Kristoffer Ajer and Nir Bitton’s tried and tested formula at centre-back.
Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo is expected to start at left-back. He has gotten better and calmer with each passing game and the manager will look for more of the same.
Callum McGregor was afforded an off-day in the last game and will come back into the reckoning for a place in the midfield double pivot.
The tireless Scott Brown had no such luxury in Estonia but is likely to continue alongside McGregor.
We are backing a well-rested James Forrest to start on the right flank. He will need to kick off the season on a high given that Marian Shved is well and truly pushing him for a place in the starting eleven.
Mikey Johnston should line up on the left with Ryan Christie operating as the central attacking midfielder.
Leigh Griffiths had a decent doubleheader against Nomme Kalju but could be relegated to bench duties with Odsonne Edouard getting a start up top.