The international break is almost over, and for that I am sure we are all very thankful. The good stuff starts again on Saturday, and it does feel an awful lot like we’ve been missing out on our fix of real football. We’re not in a perfect place, because most of us can see the holes in the team are still there, but we’re certainly in a much better one now.
The team which played last weekend was controversial. At the start of the match anyway. I agreed with it entirely upon seeing it, because I didn’t believe you could throw raw recruits who had barely met their team-mates into the lion’s den. That was the hand the board at Celtic dealt the manager, but he played it to perfection. This weekend will be different.
Raw recruits they may be, but they’ll have met at least some of their team-mates and they will now know what the manager expects of them. Does that mean we’ll see a few in the starting line-up? I think we might. I think we very well might.
So which area of the time are we most likely to get a surprise? That will depend on who is fit and who is back from the international break earliest. I wonder if we might not see Kyogo and Maeda left out and Oh starting up front with Yang and Palma?
I think Palma will almost certainly start. The injury to Liel Abada makes it pretty near certain that we’re going to see Yang in the team as well, unless the manager goes for Forrest. I suspect it’ll be both of them, and the front line will have the same changed look as the backline had last weekend. The thing is … the backline will be changed as well.
Right now, we don’t know who is fit and who isn’t but I very much doubt it will be the same personnel who played at Ibrox. We’ll have to wait until the manager talks to the media on Friday, but there will almost certainly be a radically different look to it.
There might be in the midfield as well. Bernardo is a guy we’ve all heard about and I wonder if we might yet get a chance to see him taking the field for the club. I would like that. I think it’s one of the moves we’d all like … the question is, who comes out?
At the moment, the answer to that would seem obvious, but I don’t think it’s as clear cut as some others suspect. The answer a lot of people are giving is David Turnbull.
But Turnbull has the same number of shaky games as the other midfielders this season, and I thought he was a calm presence at Ibrox. He earned his place. If he keeps it and Bernardo starts on the bench I will not be in the least bit surprised. And it’s about to get better, or worse depending on how keen you are to see the new faces on the pitch, with the imminent return of Hatate.
In this, we’re victims of both the transfer policy – which did not bring us in the obvious upgrade we’d have liked – and of our own success in a way. Because say we had brought the superstar central midfielder in, we’d still have been faced with the same dilemma as to who to drop out and there would have been people arguing for their own favourites to stay.
If Bernardo is up to it, we will know soon enough and then Brendan will have that very pleasant problem to deal with … regardless, he has a slew of good central midfield options to play around with.
This is one of the reasons I find it hard to take seriously any suggestion from across the city that their squad is the equal of ours now. Even if we hadn’t just burst that bubble with a sound you could hear across the Atlantic, it would still be nonsensical.
The team is in good shape going into this one, and the manager has a certain amount of choice and he can be flexible with his selections. I expect him to be. The strength in depth in most areas of the pitch is unbelievable, on a level I’ve not seen it for an age. Even the left-back situation does not look quite as bad as it did, because Scales can cover there.
We’re not ready for the Champions League, although those games are hurtling towards us at speed, but we’re more than set up for storming to this title when we hit our stride again, and that’s what this weekend is all about, that’s what we all want to see.