COMMENT By Matt Farr
High-flying Celtic travel to Pittodrie Stadium on Friday looking to extend their unbeaten record in domestic competitions to 44 games, with Aberdeen their latest potential scalp.
The Scottish Premiership title winners, who are chasing a domestic treble this season, are already 30 points clear of Aberdeen ahead of Friday’s tie, but the visitors will be wary of the opposition threat.
Ahead of the tie, Football Insider reveals three things to expect from Celtic:
Arguably Celtic’s toughest test yet
Despite Celtic’s unrivalled dominance in domestic competitions this season, Aberdeen will be tricky customers. Aberdeen have often been the side standing in Celtic’s way in recent years, and this term, they have proven to be the final hurdle in two competitions. Celtic breezed past them in the Scottish League Cup Final earlier this season, while they are set to meet again in the Scottish Cup Final later this month. The Dons are the closest side to matching Celtic at the moment, unlike Old Firm rivals Rangers, who have fallen from grace. Expect Aberdeen to put up a fight and to test Celtic, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Celtic will fail to come out on top.
Youngsters to demand regular inclusion
Rodgers chose to hand senior debuts to two of the club’s promising young talents in the 4-1 victory over St. Johnstone a week ago, and he could stick with them against Aberdeen.
Michael Johnston and Anthony Ralston were the two men rewarded with a place in Rodgers’ starting eleven last time out, and they gave impressive displays.
Even though Aberdeen may pose a more significant attacking threat to Celtic, Rodgers could look to persist with the pair – or at least one of them – at Pittodrie.
But if they can impress, they will be doing themselves a major favour in potentially convincing the Celtic boss to hand them a more regular role in the first-team squad for next season.
Since making his debut, Johnston has been rewarded with a new contract at the club, and Ralston could follow suit with a stand-out display on Friday.
Last chance for 25-year-old to impress
Nir Bitton has often been utilised by Rodgers in a central midfield role, but on few occasions has he actually been convincing.
The 25-year-old was recalled to the starting eleven to face St. Johnstone, with Scott Brown serving a two-match suspension, and with the Hoops skipper 90 minutes from a return, he may not have another opportunity to impress this season.
From his 37 appearances in all competitions, the Israel international has contributed just one goal and two assists, which pales in comparison to his midfield team-mates.
With Rodgers likely to consider midfield reinforcements this summer, he may be forced to axe one from his current squad, and Bitton could be sacrificed.
In other Celtic news, this is how Celtic will be expected to line-up against Aberdeen.