Why Celtic captain Scott Brown should play Scottish Cup final, and four other selection posers facing Neil Lennon
The team sheet that Neil Lennon lodges for the Hampden decider will be one of the most pored over club documents in recent times. For five reasons.
Does Scott Brown dislodge Ismaila Soro for a holding midfield role?
This question has become a cause celebre. There is an almost universal demand for Soro to be retained against Hearts following his pivotal role in the club’s rediscovery of the winning art, a pick that would force the Celtic captain to start a third straight game on the bench. It is a surprise President-elect Joe Biden hasn’t weighed in on the issue, since it can seem everyone else has.
The 35-year-old has been a colossal figure for Celtic, the anchor as the club are now a final win away from completing a remarkable quadruple treble. It is why his manager has talked about the need to be “loyal” to those that have got them there. Yet, it is the very success of Soro that gives grounds for playing Brown at Hampden. The 22-year-old has only played 217 minutes of senior competitive football since he pitched up in Scotland from Bnei Yehuda in January. It explains why he cramped up in his full debut, the win over Lille a week ago. Lennon will be looking to deploy him in the four league games across little over a week and-a-half – which starts on Wednesday at home to Ross County and ends at Ibrox on January 2 – that will have a major impact on the club’s pursuit of a storied 10th title.
Moreover, old heads with copious cup final experience can be crucial to managing such occasions. Add to that the fact Brown’s best display of the season came in the Scottish Cup semi-final, and it can be a pragmatism, not sentimentality, that leans Lennon towards playing his captain on Sunday.
Does David Turnbull keep his place?
Short answer yes, in part because of the reverse of the Brown-Soro equation. The 21-year-old’s rival for the position, Tom Rogic, in stacking up games following a lengthy period out, looked a little leggy before giving way to a youngster who has ignited Celtic in the attacking third. Although Turnbull hadn’t played for Lennon much before last week, unlike Soro, he started the season bagging outings, which came with Motherwell before his late August £3.5m move.
Will Conor Hazard remain in goal?
The 22-year-old has to do so because of the form issues that have beset Vasilis Barkas and Scott Bain this season. The 22-year-old Irishman can perform with a freedom and a confidence denied the club’s two senior keepers because, unlike them, he is under no real pressure.
Is there a place for Ryan Christie, and if so where?
The drive and energy Christie is capable of bringing to Celtic should see him another stalwart that Lennon brings back in to his starting line-up. Jeremie Frimpong has essentially been deployed as a winger in recent games, and Christie is not that, but the Scotland international should be handed the wide right role.
Has Greg Taylor given himself a chance of nudging out Diego Laxalt?
The Scotland international was impressive against old club Kilmarnock last weekend and warrants consideration, but the club’s on-loan AC Milan left-back would still appear to have the edge.
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