Why this 25-year-old Celtic star must start against Rangers
COMMENT By Matt Farr
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers must recall 25-year-old midfielder James Forrest to the starting line-up to face Rangers on Saturday.
The two sides go head-to-head in the third Old Firm derby clash of the season, but Rodgers must turn to Forrest to have the best chance of picking up their third win over Rangers from as many games.
Forrest started the campaign as one of Brendan Rodgers’ most important players, but missed four of Celtic’s games in December with a hamstring injury.
He made his return to action in the victory over Hamilton on Saturday, replacing Scott Sinclair as a second-half substitute, and claimed an assist.
However, Rodgers should look to Celtic’s next game with Ross County on Wednesday to build up Forrest’s fitness ahead of a start against Rangers at the end of the week.
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From his 27 games in all competitions for the Hoops this season, the Scotland international has contributed six goals and eight assists, and Celtic could use that productivity against their great rivals.
Celtic must take on Rangers at Ibrox, so Rodgers’ men will need to put them under pressure from their start, and make them feel uncomfortable on their own turf.
With pace and a superb crossing ability, Forrest can make a huge difference in the wider areas for Celtic, and can put Rangers’ full-backs Lee Wallace and James Tavernier to the sword.
He was the star when Celtic beat Aberdeen in the League Cup Final back in November. His vision and eye for a pass made him virtually unplayable that day, and he marked the scintillating display with a goal and an assist.
Forrest has not always been able to hit those heights consistently, which is the main concern for Celtic, but he will relish the big-game opportunity to shine in arguably the biggest clash of them all.
He started for Celtic in both of their previous encounters with Rangers this season, and gave impressive displays. Rodgers has fortunately had a wealth of talent at his disposal this season, and has made the most of rotating his options.
Scott Sinclair has been fantastic, while Patrick Roberts is showing real potential since joining on loan from Manchester City.
However, in the continued absence of Tom Rogic, Rodgers should bring in Forrest and reshuffle the pack in attack.
In other Celtic news, this Celtic legend is set to make a return to the club in 2017.