3 curveballs Brendan Rodgers could throw as Celtic face St Mirren

Celtic will look to get back to winning ways when they welcome the visit of St Mirren to Celtic Park this evening. After a disappointing draw at Easter Road on Saturday afternoon, the pressure is on for the side to put in a dominant and comprehensive performance to rebuild the momentum the team was building up prior to that draw.

The forward line was misfiring at the weekend, and the likes of Luis Palma and Kyogo Furuhashi will be eager to get back in amongst the goals.

However, St Mirren will be no pushovers, with Stephen Robinson currently sitting third in the cinch Premiership after an impressive start to the season.




Rodgers has only played three times against the Buddies, with St Mirren having predominantly been in the Championship for the majority of Rodgers’ first tenure at Celtic. Those three games have yielded two wins and one draw, with an aggregate score of 8 goals to 1.

The Buddies are a completely different animal to the newly-promoted side Rodgers faced four years ago, with Stephen Robinson getting them back to their best, even managing a shock victory against Celtic at home during the early stages of last season.

St Mirren’s only defeat this season came at the hands of Rangers in Paisley, with the Buddies having seen off the likes of Hearts, Hibs and Motherwell so far this season.

Keanu Baccus has been the standout performer, having featured heavily for the Australian national team, including a start against England at Wembley. His good form hasn’t just been on the international stage, with the Aussie having scored an extraordinary goal at the weekend in a 4-0 home win over St Johnstone, a game that resulted in the sacking of Saints boss Steven MacLean. Mikael Mandron also grabbed a double in that game, and he is the club’s top scorer with three goals this season.


Celtic will be without the likes of Liel Abada and Stephen Welsh with the pair dealing with long-term injuries, and Brendan Rodgers confirmed in his pre-game press conference that Odin Holm hasn’t been seen in the squad in recent weeks due to an injury that the Norwegian was dealing with.

Reo Hatate was confirmed to be out for a few weeks, meaning that there is a free spot in Celtic’s midfield for someone to claim. The most likely option to nail down that position looks to be Paulo Bernardo, with the Portuguese midfielder having started in Hatate’s place on Saturday afternoon.

Celtic may see Alistair Johnston back in the fold, as his concussion substitution against Hibs looked to be a precaution, with the Canadian being seen in the club’s most recent training footage.

That will provide a welcome boost for tonight’s encounter, a game in which Celtic will need to be back to their very best following the weekend’s lacklustre display.

Brendan Rodgers will be looking for a reaction from his Celtic side tonight. There was a real lack of fire in Celtic’s attack as the side was clearly suffering from a European hangover, with the likes of Daizen Maeda and Kyogo Furuhashi, who are usually relentless in their running and pressing, looking uncharacteristically tired and leggy.

With the team dropping points, Rodgers could look to make some changes in the side in hope of sparking the performance levels back to life, and here are three potential curveballs the manager could throw in for the visit of Stephen Robinson’s visitors.

Tomoki Iwata

The Japanese midfielder has been seen scarcely this season, rarely making an appearance, with his only three games for Celtic coming from the bench.

Iwata is usually called up to provide a steady and solid presence in the middle of the park as well as providing some steel when a game looks to be getting tough. He showed a different side to his game in his substitute appearance at Tynecastle, however, as he rifled home a ferocious effort beyond a helpless Zander Clark in the Hearts net.

The midfield didn’t really put a foot wrong at Easter Road, but with the fixture schedule starting to get busier, bringing in Iwata could be a wise move to give the likes of Callum McGregor or Matt O’Riley a well-deserved rest.

Maik Nawrocki

The Pole hasn’t been seen since returning from his injury, with the form of Liam Scales and the known quality of Cameron Carter-Vickers resulting in it being difficult for the former Legia Warsaw man to break into the Celtic defence.

He looked set to be a consistent starter when he first signed, showing good recovery pace as well as decent one-on-one defending. However, the injury he suffered at Rugby Park seems to have derailed his momentum, and he will be expected to be slowly brought back into the team over the next few weeks.

Given Nawrocki was the most expensive signing of the summer transfer window, Rodgers will be eager to give his new man some playing time. Giving the Pole a chance mid-week and allowing for some rest for Carter-Vickers or Scales could be a wise move.

Anthony Ralston

The Scotland international has proven to be a steady and reliable option when called upon for Celtic, and he didn’t put a foot wrong when he was starting in the first few domestic fixtures of the season with Canadian right-back Alistair Johnston out injured.

Johnston was substituted with a suspected concussion at the weekend, and he was visibly shaken following the collision with Rocky Bushiri’s clearance.

Johnston appears to be fine given he was spotted in the recently released footage of the team training at Lennoxtown, but given Ralston’s solid display when coming on from the bench, keeping Ralston in the team could be a low-risk opportunity for Rodgers to give one of his most reliable back-up options some game time.


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