Celtic expected 4-2-3-1 v Albion: 21-year-old handed rare start
COMMENT By Matt Farr
Brendan Rodgers is expected to make six changes to his Celtic side to face Albion Rovers in the Scottish Cup fourth round on Sunday.
Celtic have been out of action since the victory over Rangers at the end of December, having taken time-off during a winter break.
Rodgers is expected to hand fringe duo Dorus de Vries and 21-year-old Ryan Christie a rare opportunity to impress, while he is also expected to welcome back Kieran Tierney, Kolo Toure, Cristian Gamboa and Leigh Griffiths to his starting line-up.
With a Scottish Premiership clash with St. Johnstone just three days later, regular first-team stars Craig Gordon, Emilio Izaguirre, Mikael Lustig, Moussa Dembele, Callum McGregor and Erik Sviatchenko are likely to be rested.
Jozo Simunovic, Stuart Armstrong, Scott Brown, James Forrest and Scott Sinclair are the five players set to keep their places.
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Rodgers will be wary of underestimating his opponents, who play their football three divisions below Celtic, but will have one eye on keeping his best players fit for their league clash with St. Johnstone – despite having several weeks’ rest.
Backup goalkeeper Dorus de Vries could therefore make only his seventh appearance of the season in the absence of premier stopper Craig Gordon.
Celtic, meanwhile, could be set to welcome back defender Kieran Tierney, following a lengthy injury absence. The 19-year-old left-back has been one of Celtic’s star performers this season, but has not featured since October after suffering an ankle injury.
Veteran defender Kolo Toure is also expected to return, having not started a game for Celtic since the win over Motherwell on December 3. The Ivorian began the season as Rodgers’ first-choice defender, but has since fallen out of favour.
Cristian Gamboa also returns in place of Mikael Lustig, who recently signed a new deal with the club.
Premier midfield duo Stuart Armstrong and Scott Brown are likely to retain their places in the side to face Albion, having formed a formidable partnership in the middle of the park this season.
Armstrong in particular has been in sensational form, drawing the plaudits with his eight goals and five assists from 29 appearances in all competitions.
Scott Sinclair, James Forrest and Leigh Griffiths provide the main goalscoring threat for Celtic, having netted 31 goals between them since the start of the campaign.
Lastly, Ryan Christie could be handed a rare start, having featured just seven times under Rodgers. The midfielder has been more of a rotation option for the Celtic boss, and played 63 minutes of the victory over Ross County just days before the derby meeting with Rangers.
Victory for Celtic will see them remain on course for a domestic treble, having already lifted the League Cup earlier in November, while they are 19 points clear at the top of the Premiership.
In other Celtic news, Rodgers had made an emphatic decision on the futures of these two outcasts.