Celtic manager Neil Lennon provided a mixed injury update on his squad ahead of this weekend’s Premiership fixture.
As reported by celticfc.net, Lennon stated in his press briefing before Saturday’s home game against Livingston that Leigh Griffiths will be in the squad, but Mohamed Elyounoussi and Hatem Abd Elhamed aren’t due to return for another week or two.
Speaking about Griffiths, whose involvement this season has been curtailed by a thigh injury but who scored twice in the reserves’ 6-0 win over Stenhousemuir in midweek, the manager said: “Leigh will be involved with the squad this weekend.
“He had an hour on Tuesday and looked good, so he’ll be in and around it now. He’s happy and he needs to stay there now. Not only stay there but improve his condition bit by bit.” [via celticfc.net]
Griffiths should be boosted by his two-goal performance in midweek, even if it was in a reserve team game, and his goal-scoring ability is in no doubt, with 107 in 211 appearances for Celtic and three in eight games at the start of the season.
If Lennon decides to go with him from the start against Livingston, he could employ the 3-1-4-2 formation that he used in the away win over Lazio recently, with the 29-year-old partnering joint-top scorer Odsonne Edouard up top.
It might also see Jonny Hayes reprising his left midfield role from that night in the Stadio Olimpico, with Elyounoussi’s absence for this weekend creating a vacancy in that position.
However, that was the only game all season in which Lennon went with three at the back and used two strikers, while Griffiths’ total lack of first team action over the last three months could deter the manager from throwing him straight back into the starting XI.
If Lennon goes with the 4-2-3-1 that he usually employs, Edouard will almost certainly be centre-forward, which leaves the left-sided attacking midfield role up for grabs.
Celtic have a ready-made player for that position in Scott Sinclair, but the Englishman has been frozen out by his manager for most of this season, with the 30-year-old not once included in the starting line-up and making just six substitute appearances.
Mikey Johnston, another option on the left wing, hasn’t played since the derby win at Ibrox in September, having been ruled out by a thigh strain in the meantime. However, he has trained with the first team this week, as noted by Joe McHugh on Twitter [via @videocelts].
With Lennon frequently choosing 4-2-3-1 and Griffiths only returning now, the Scotland striker might not be ready for a 90-minute game yet and will probably start on the bench against Livingston.
As for who replaces Elyounoussi on the left, Johnston seems the likeliest option to come in if he is fit to feature, having scored three goals and set up another four in 10 games prior to his injury.
If he doesn’t make it for this weekend, though, Lennon could be left with little choice but to call Sinclair in from the cold. Circumstances could force the manager’s hand in extending the olive branch to the 30-year-old.
Celtic fans, who would you pick in place of Elyounoussi against Livingston? Would you start Griffiths or have him on the bench? Join in the discussion by commenting below!
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