Rodgers could bin £13k-p/w “machine” for Old Firm
Scottish champions Celtic will be hoping to shake off their recent woes ahead of this afternoon’s intriguing Old Firm derby encounter, with Brendan Rodgers’ side heading into that crunch clash having failed to win either of their previous two games in all competitions.
The Parkhead outfit notably saw any hopes of defending their treble dashed after slipping to a shock 1-0 defeat away to Kilmarnock in the League Cup two weeks ago, before being held to a goalless draw following another frustrating outing at home to St Johnstone in the league last weekend.
Such limp form is far from ideal preparation for today’s trip to Ibrox to face bitter rivals Rangers, with Rodgers likely needing to shuffle his pack if he is to avoid witnessing another uninspiring performance from his side.
Who will start for Celtic against Rangers?
A major factor in the Hoops’ current woes is the raft of injury issues that have impacted the first-team squad, with options in the centre of defence looking particularly thin on the ground amid the long-term injuries to the likes of Stephen Welsh, Cameron Carter-Vickers and summer signing, Maik Nawrocki.
With midfield maestro Reo Hatate also currently sidelined – alongside compatriot Yuki Kobayashi – Rodgers’ squad depth is being well and truly tested, with it likely to be something of a makeshift side that takes to the field today.
The forward line has also not been exempt from injury with July arrival Marco Tilio yet to feature and with Mikey Johnston set to be out for an extended period, while South Korean striker Oh Hyeon-gyu has been absent since being named on the bench on the opening weekend.
That has left the Celtic boss with limited options to choose from in the final third, although the Northern Irishman must still showcase his ruthless streak to help revive his misfiring attacking unit, with Daizen Maeda one such asset who simply needs to give way.
Will Maeda start against Rangers?
Fresh off the back of a season that saw the 25-year-old score 11 goals and register seven assists under former boss Ange Postecoglou, it is fair to say that the Japanese international has been unable to replicate that form this time around, with just one assist and no goals to his name after starting all four games so far this term.
The relentless “machine” – as previously described by former Hoops star Chris Sutton – was notably off the pace in the shock defeat to Killie, with Football Scotland’s Robbie Hanratty writing that the wideman ‘wasn’t himself at all’ after putting in ‘a really quiet and uncharacteristic performance’.
That errant display was followed up by another ‘pretty quiet’ outing last time out, in the words of Glasgow World’s Lewis Anderson, with ‘more needed’ from the £13k-per-week ace from his wide berth.
Such woes were laid bare against the Saints as Maeda lost possession on ten occasions from his 31 touches as a marker of his lack of composure, having also failed to register a single key pass before being hooked on the hour mark, as per Sofascore.
As the player himself admitted, the change in the dugout has potentially been a factor in his recent downturn in performance, with the former Yokohama F.Marinos ace stating earlier this week:
“Personally I feel that the tactics of the previous manager are kind-of instilled in my game. So obviously I have to change to the new style.”
While the upcoming meeting with Michael Beale’s men may be the perfect time for Maeda to prove that he has adapted to life under Rodgers – having previously registered four goals and assists in ten meetings with the Light Blues – the champions can ill-afford to carry any passengers for such a crucial encounter.
After failing to find the back of the net in their last two games, something needs to give for Celtic if they are to bounce back at Ibrox.
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