Brendan Rodgers hails response of dropped playmaker, as Celtic prepare for Pittodrie

Celtic will look to maintain their 3-point gap at the top of the cinch Premiership table when they travel to Pittodrie to face Barry Robson’s Aberdeen.

The Aberdeen coach faced Celtic twice last season, once as a caretaker and once as a permanent manager with the aggregate score being 9-0 over both games. Those matches were both played at Celtic Park, however, and had different implications in which you can give Robson an excuse. The first was Robson’s first game in management and the second was the final game of the season by which time Aberdeen had nothing to play for.

Summer retention

Robson and Aberdeen started this season with a tricky 0-0 draw away to David Martindale’s Livingston, a ground in which Celtic fans have had nightmares about up until the Tony Macaroni Arena hoodoo was finally resolved under Ange Postecoglou.

It wasn’t a summer of replacing for Aberdeen but more a summer of retaining, and so far they have been able to keep a lot of their assets that made them so successful in the second portion of last season. Luis ‘Duk’ Lopes and Bojan Miovski have both stuck around and Leighton Clarkson was re-signed on a permanent deal from Liverpool.

Celtic started the season with a satisfactory performance in a 4-2 win over Ross County, an opener which saw mixed reactions from fans. Eyebrows were raised when the lineups were announced with Reo Hatate on the bench, being replaced by David Turnbull. But the 24-year-old Scot repaid the manager’s faith in him by grabbing two goals in what was a man-of-the-match performance.

Selection headache

Standout displays from Matt O’Riley and Kyogo Furuhashi also left fans wanting more and Brendan Rodgers will have the good kind of selection headache when picking his midfield for Sunday’s game.

Celtic will be without Carl Starfelt for the game with the Swede moving on to Celta Vigo yesterday. Oh Hyeon-Gyu and Alistair Johnston will also miss out as they continue their recoveries from injury.

Aberdeen will be without Angus Macdonald and new Liverpool loanee Rhys Williams as they recover from injuries as well.

Fans will have keen eyes towards the Celtic bench after news broke last night that Alexandro Bernabei had been dropped from the squad to face Ross County due to him sleeping in and missing a team meeting ahead of the opeaning fixture. Sead Haksabanovic also missed out amidst social media murmurs that he may have been told to find a new club and it will be interesting to see if either of the pair travel to Pittodrie.

Rodgers insisted in his press conference ahead of Sunday’s game that he will continue to pick “the best team, not the best players“.

This comes amidst claims about Reo Hatate’s omission and his body language, as Rodgers responded when speaking to The Herald, “He knows areas he needs to work on to play for me, and the structure of how I work.”

“He’s responded really well in training and will absolutely be a player we need over the course of the season.”

Brendan Rodgers has a good record at Pittodrie, winning 12 out of 13 games against the Dons in his previous tenure at the club. Aberdeen have players that can hurt Celtic but if Rodgers’ side play to their best there should be no doubts that Celtic can get the job done.


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