Brendan Rodgers takes his Celtic side up to Pittodrie on Sunday afternoon for the first away fixture of his second tenure in the Parkhead hot seat. The Irishman won on all four visits to the Granite City during his first spell in charge, including a 2-0 win the day before exiting for Leicester City, and will be hoping for a similar result on his return.
Rodgers 2.0 got off to a good start last weekend with a routine victory at home to Ross County. The 4-2 score line slightly flattered the visitors who, barring a couple of early chances, posed little threat to Celtic for large spells.
Celtic dominated possession and chance creation throughout the game, a feature of Rodgers’ Celtic sides from the past, with O’Riley, Kyogo, and Turnbull all looking particularly impressive in new roles. The nature of the goals conceded will no doubt have irked Rodgers as both were preventable however, with another week’s work on the training field under their belt, the hope will be that the concession of soft goals reduces game-by-game.
Life after Carl
Following the confirmation of his midweek departure to Celta Vigo, Sunday will be the first game of life after Carl Starfelt. Although often the butt of supporter frustration, the Swedish centre-back formed a formidable partnership with Cameron Carter-Vickers and was a key component of the meanest defence in the Cinch Premiership over the past two seasons. Celtic did not lose a single league game when Starfelt and Carter-Vickers partnered at the back.
Filling the Starfelt-sized gap in the defence is Polish defender Maik Nawrocki who made his debut last week from the start as we got a glimpse into life after Carl Starfelt.
The 22-year-old looked composed on the ball during his 66 minutes on the pitch, made several key interceptions, and was not fazed by the physical challenge that Ross County presented. The signs are promising that Nawrocki will become a big asset as the season progresses.
He may also be joined shortly by Starfelt’s fellow Swede Gustaf Lagerbielke, suggesting that Celtic are preparing well for life after Carl Starfelt.
No Reo, no problem
For the majority of last season, the thought of a Celtic midfield without Reo Hatate was almost unthinkable. 90 minutes into the new campaign and the question is how does Reo Hatate get back into the midfield?
After a sluggish pre-season and the re-emergence of David Turnbull as a goal-scoring force from the middle of the park, Reo Hatate found himself sidelined from the team for last weekend’s opener. With Turnbull scoring a brace and midfield partner Matt O’Riley chipping in with a goal and an assist, it is unlikely that Hatate will make the starting eleven at Pittodrie either.
While there is no doubting the Japanese playmaker’s talents, there were certainly times last season when he flattered to deceive. Rodgers made a statement move by leaving him out of the side last weekend, it is now up to Reo to show his worth as a team player and contribute to the fullest of his abilities when coming in off the bench.
Aberdeen opened their season with a goalless draw at Livingston last weekend in an evenly fought contest. The Dons created the better opportunities during the first hour of the game with new signing Slobodan Rubezic and last season’s top scorer Duk missing the best of the chances.
A flurry of chances in the final half an hour for Livingston gave them a slight edge overall on the xG Timeline, however, the draw was the fair result.
Robson made an almost immediate impact upon his appointment as Aberdeen’s manager at the end of January, winning 9 out of 15 games through to the end of the season. Such was his impact that Aberdeen won 49% of their total points last season under Robson, despite him only being in charge for 39% of their league games.
However, two of Robson’s five defeats last season came against Celtic, both at Celtic Park and both by large margins; 4-0 and 5-0 respectively. On both visits to Celtic Park last season, Robson opted for the unusual approach from an away side of trying to play an open game and attack Celtic. It may have backfired on the Dons, but Robson takes a lot of credit for sticking to his attacking philosophy.
A similar approach is likely in front of a large home crowd at Pittodrie who will be hoping the home side can take advantage of any early-season rustiness in the Celtic ranks.
As always, ACSOM will cover the game, providing pre-match, half-time, and post-match reactions. Come and join us for the game.