With the Europa League back this week, we once again asked Craig Shields – co-editor of The Oval Log – to give Rennes fans five Celtic players to watch on Thursday night.
It’s been a troubling time for Glasgow’s green and white since the 1-1 draw against Rennes a few weeks back. In that time Celtic have failed to move out of third place in the Scottish Premier League and are now a daunting twelve points behind four-in-a-row chasing Rangers.
Manager Neil Lennon hit out at the players after the 0-0 home draw with Hibs last weekend and when speaking to the BBC said “A few have been consistent like Ki and Joe Ledley. But there are others who are happy to go along, riding on their backs.” There is a severe lack of harmony at the club right now and amazingly it’s at an even lower point than when Celtic went into the initial match against Rennes.
But despite all these problems there are still a number of players to keep an eye on during the must win Europa League match.
#1 Charlie Mulgrew
Mulgrew is one of the only Celtic players who can hold his head up right now. He has been giving consistent performances since the turn of the calendar year whether it be at his natural position at the left of defense and midfield or more recently at centre-back.
But Mulgrew’s versatility isn’t the only thing thats been going for him. His technical ability with the ball is something Celtic fans haven’t seen since the departure of Nakamura a few years ago. The left-footed Scotsman doesn’t quite have the same level of free-kick ability as the Japanese wizard, but his range of passing certainly helps Celtic turn defense into attack in the blink of an eye. In fact his set piece ability was evident in France as he was the provider for Celtic’s equaliser.
#2 Ki Sung-Yeung
Celtic’s South Korean import, nicknamed ‘Dave’, got off to a slow start following his transfer from FC Seoul in 2009. But last season Ki established himself in the Celtic startling line-up and has become a regular fixture in the team, even ousting captain Scott Brown from the centre of midfield.
He’s yet to really dominate a big game and is unproven above SPL level but his technical ability is there for all to see. His passing and shooting is certainly worthy of a higher level but his defensive work needs some refinement. Ki has recently been linked with moves to Liverpool and Tottenham and if he’s to fulfill his potential he’ll need to start performing in Celtics more important matches.
#3 Joe Ledley
The Welshmans inclusion in this list has been due to a string of impressive performances. Something which is few and far between for a lacklustre Celtic squad of late. Ledley usually sits deep in the midfield and when combined with Ki allows the South Korean to get forward and try to dictate the play.
But Ledley isn’t shy to get forward himself at times either, and along with scoring in France the other week has provided a few crucial goals already this season. Hopefully his recent good form can continue and perhaps inspire the others around him.
#4 Anthony Stokes
After traveling around several clubs in his short career so far Stokes signed for his boyhood club from Sunderland in 2010. The Irishman’s selfishness in front of goal has allowed him to become a lethal threat and one that when paired with Gary Hooper in front of the net guarantees goals.
His work rate has come into question and is often portrayed as the rebel inside Celtics squad, often getting fined for lateness at training. But to say he’s a disruption would be disrespectful.
Lennon rarely uses him in big games but his double last weekend helped Celtic come from 3-0 down to Kilmarnock to snatch a 3-3 draw. Stokes is a hugely influential figure and always gives 110% when he’s out on the pitch and after last weekends performance he must start more high profile games, starting with Rennes this Thursday.
#5 James Forrest
Like Mulgrew, Forrest came through the Celtic youth academy and established himself as a first team fixture during the last few months of the previous season. Forrest’s direct pace has already caused problems for Udinese and Atletico in this season’s Europa League, leading to his inclusion in recent Scotland squads and rumour of a £10m move to Tottenham.
The twenty year-old’s natural ability means he’ll be a first team regular at Celtic for a long time to come, if he can improve his overall game naturally through experience and continue on improving his goal scoring he’ll be a fine player at the club.