Ange Postecoglou leads his Celtic team into Hampden this Sunday for his second League Cup Final as Celtic manager, and a chance to lift a third trophy. Celtic’s biggest rivals are the team they will face in the third meeting between the pair this season.
Celtic ran out comfortable 4-0 winners at Celtic Park in the opening encounter and followed that with a 2-2 draw at Ibrox at the turn of the year. At a completely neutral venue, this game could swing either way.
That’s why it’s important that Ange Postecoglou gets his team selection right, and as always fans are debating their selection queries ahead of the game. Perhaps more-so than before, as many fans believe the manager got his selection wrong in the Ibrox draw.
The team is so stacked that multiple players could fill in and impact or improve the starting eleven, whether that be in midfield or attack. Those are the main selection headaches Celtic have, but good headaches. Who starts in midfield, and who starts in attack?
Central Midfield – Aaron Mooy or Matt O’Reilly
The fact that Matt O’Reilly, a player whose quality is well known, may have his position in the team at threat is not only a testament to the squad Ange has built, but also a testament to the roaring form of Aaron Mooy since the return from the World Cup break.
As mentioned previously, many fans feel Ange got his team selection at Ibrox wrong, and many also felt Mooy should have started. This point was further emphasised by the Australian’s vitally important role in Kyogo Furuhashi’s equaliser.
Mooy has been in red hot form since the turn of the new year, getting involved amongst the goals as well as strolling it in the heart of the midfield. However, an injury ruled him out of the win over Aberdeen last weekend, and it may be a risk to play him at Hampden, especially if not fully fit.
He also doesn’t have the proven and well-documented success that Matt O’Reilly has seen on derby day. A focal point of Ange’s most successful derby games, Matt O’Reilly has come onto a decent bit of form himself after having to take a backseat from being his usually creative and impactful self in Callum McGregor’s absence, deputising in a more defensive role.
However, he has been lacking a finishing touch this season, perhaps because of the more defensive role he had to take up, and was also noticeably poor in the New Year’s derby. That could perhaps be attributed to a sickness bug that had ravaged the squad, but there is no doubt at this current point that the Dane can also keep up with the fast-paced and sometimes hectic style of play that Rangers will try to impose on the game, perhaps something that a potentially injury-stricken Aaron Mooy may be unable to.
Wingers – Daizen Maeda or Liel Abada
Jota’s place in the team is not up for debate, however, there is a debate to be had as to who accompanies him on the opposite flank. Similar to the central midfield debate, this is a case of form vs proven quality.
Daizen Maeda has been sensational since the World Cup. Scoring in the Round of 16 against Croatia, gave him the added confidence he was needing to push on at Celtic, and he has done that consistently this year.
Besides scoring goals, Maeda is also a good option defensively thanks to his pace and pressing, which can be a key factor in controlling the game as it helps to counter one of Rangers’ key players in James Tavernier.
Maeda might have scored in the last Derby, however, Liel Abada always scores in the derbies. After scoring a brace in his last derby start, Liel Abada has proven he has the quality to have his say on derby day.
The Israeli’s has been in good this season and has managed to maintain a high level of performance recently despite his limited minutes on the pitch. Starting Abada allows Jota to start in his preferred role off the left which could be key to our chances on Sunday. Furthermore, Abada has enjoyed great success up against Borna Barisic in the past and this double threat from the wings could be just what Celtic need.
Personally, I would start Mooy and Abada out of the two selections. Aaron Mooy would have made a difference at Ibrox, and I think his experience could be important. Abada starting may be the more controversial, but his quality in the derbies is proven, and I think his quality in front of goal will be needed in a game where chances could perhaps be limited.