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27th Dec, 2016 | 2:16pm

Celtic expected 4-2-3-1 v Ross County: Veteran defender returns

By Matt Farr

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers is expected to make at least four changes to his side for their Scottish Premiership encounter with Ross County on Wednesday.

Rodgers is likely to rest several key players ahead of their high-profile Old Firm derby clash with Rangers just two days later, including Scott Sinclair, Cristian Gamboa and Leigh Griffiths.

The trio are expected to drop to the bench, with midfielder Callum McGregor suspended following his red card in the 3-0 victory over Hamilton.

Veteran defender Kolo Toure is expected to slot in at the back in place of Gamboa, while there will be a straight-swap in midfield between McGregor and Nir Bitton.

Striker Leigh Griffiths is also expected to step aside amid injury concerns, with lead goalscorer Moussa Dembele returning to the starting line-up. Dembele came off the bench to score against Hamilton, his 18th goal of the campaign.

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Griffiths was substituted at half-time by Brendan Rodgers as a precaution over a calf injury, and the former Liverpool will not risk his striker ahead of the Rangers clash.

There could be another opportunity for youngster Calvin Miller to shine, meanwhile, with the 18-year-old coming in for the rested Sinclair. Miller made his debut in the victory over Partick Thistle last week.

After a superb display against Hamilton last time out, Stuart Armstrong could be given license to push further forward, having proven to be a potent goal threat. The 24-year-old has contributed seven goals and four assists from 27 appearances in all competitions this season.

Jozo Simunovic could also be in contention to come into the defence, but Rodgers won’t want to make too many changes to a settled defence that has conceded just 13 league goals this campaign.

The Hoops are nearing the end of an incredibly testing schedule, having played seven games in all competitions already this month, and they still have two more to play before the new year. Therefore, with such an important game against Rangers on the horizon, Rodgers needs to rotate his squad to keep them fit.

Tom Rogic is still recovering from a ankle injury, so will not play any part in the Ross County fixture, but Rodgers hopes that he will be available to face Rangers. James Forrest, meanwhile, is not yet fully fit, and will not be risked as a starter.

Celtic can move 17 points clear of Rangers with a win over a Ross County side that are sixth in the league, having won just twice in their last 10 games.

In other Celtic news, Brendan Rodgers has named this Celtic man as the perfect role model.