Celtic v Aberdeen - Three key individual battles that could decide crunch clash at Pittodrie
After slumping to a 3-1 defeat against AC Milan on Thursday night, Celtic go into Sunday’s clash at Pittodrie facing the prospect of a third straight loss in all competitions.
Last weekend’s sobering 2-0 Old Firm slip-up left the Hoops with plenty of questions to answer, and Aberdeen could make for a tricky obstacle as they look to get their title push back on track.
For Derek Ferguson’s men, three points would see them move level with the Bhoys in the Scottish Premiership table.
It’s been over two years since the Dons last beat the champions, but after a positive start to the season – and with the Hoops still reeling from their loss to Rangers – they will feel that Sunday’s meeting is a prime opportunity to amend that underwhelming record.
Here are three key individual battles that could help to decide the outcome of the clash:
Shane Duffy v Ryan Edmondson
Duffy’s arrival at Parkhead was hailed as one of the signings of the summer in many quarters when it was first announced.
An ardent Hoops fan, the Republic of Ireland captain has plenty of Premier League pedigree from his time with parent club Brighton, and looked like a smart addition to Lennon’s title-winning squad.
In truth, however, he has struggled to find his best form during his brief time in Glasgow so far, and after another suspect display against Milan in midweek, he will be eager to turn a corner with a more assured showing at Pittodrie.
Putting him to the test will be teenage striker Ryan Edmondson.
The Leeds loanee opened his account for the Dons with a brace against Hamilton on Tuesday night, and while Duffy’s confidence looks to be suffering a little right now, his will be at an all-time high.
Ryan Christie v Ross McCrorie
There were a few raised eyebrows when McCrorie took the decision to leave boyhood club Rangers to join Derek Ferguson’s side over the summer, but so far, his decision has been more than vindicated.
An impressive run of form has been rewarded with a first senior Scotland call-up, and his partnership in the centre of the park with Lewis Ferguson looks as if it could have the potential to flourish into something quite special.
The 22-year-old began the 4-2 win over Hamilton on the bench, but is likely to return to the starting XI on Sunday, and could be faced with the considerable task of keeping Ryan Christie quiet.
The playmaker missed last weekend’s Old Firm defeat due to a mandatory period of quarantine, but was included in Neil Lennon’s match day squad against Milan, and came off the bench to lay on the assist for Mohamed Elyounoussi’s consolation strike.
It’s no coincidence that the Hoops looked decidedly flatter without Christie pulling the strings in midfield, and he could provide McCrorie with one of his biggest challenges in an Aberdeen shirt to date.
Leigh Griffiths v Ash Taylor
With Odsonne Edouard set to miss out again against the Dons following his recent Coronavirus diagnosis, Lennon is likely to turn to Griffiths to lead his line again at Pittodrie.
The 30-year-old is yet to start a Scottish Premiership match so far this term, but struck late on in the recent win over St. Johnstone, and was given the nod against Milan on Thursday night.
Looking to stifle him will be Ash Taylor.
The centre-back has had to work hard to win over some sections of the fanbase since returning to the club last summer, but with eight league starts already this term, he is clearly a favourite of Ferguson’s.
Taylor has been in impressive form so far this term, winning 71.1% of his defensive duels per 90 minutes, as well as making 17.39 ball recoveries per game and coming out on top in 76.3% of his aerial contests, as per Wyscout.
If he brings that kind of dominant presence to the table on Sunday, Griffiths could be in for quite the battle.