ANGE POSTECOGLOU is expected to ring the changes for tonight’s final Europa League Group G game against Real Betis at Parkhead.
As far as qualification to the next stage of the competition, the encounter against the Spanish cracks is meaningless with Celtic toppling into their third European tournament of the season after being consigned to the Conference League knock-out stages early next year following the 3-2 loss to Bayer Leverkusen a fortnight ago.
Postecoglou is already without hamstring victim Filipe Jota, who could struggle to play again this year, and the manager could take the opportunity to rest skipper Callum McGregor, top scorer Kyogo Furuhashi and David Turnbull, the Scotland international midfielder who has been involved in all previous 29 matches this season.
MONEY TALKS…Ange Postecoglou weighs up the cash repercussions.
Tom Rogic and Carl Starfelt, who made his return in the 1-0 win over Hearts seven days ago after five weeks out through injury, could get a breather as well as keeper Joe Hart who has made 26 consecutive appearances since his bargain £1million switch from Spurs at the start of August.
Anthony Ralston and James Forrest will not be risked and the door will be open for the likes of Scott Bain, Albian Ajeti, Mikey Johnston, James McCarthy and Liam Scales to get some game time.
A much-changed side could, of course, lessen the Hoops’ chances of a victory over Manuel Pellegrini’s visitors and that will mean the Parkhead men losing out on the £535,000 prize money on offer for a win in the group stages.
This evening’s encounter is just one of EIGHT matches the Hoops will face in a whirlwind 25 days which includes an appearance in the Premier Sports League Final against Hibs at Hampden a week on Sunday.
CAPTAIN’S REST…Callum McGregor could get a breather tonight.
There will be six crucial Premiership outings to be confronted against Motherwell, Ross County, St Mirren, St Johnstone and the Easter Road side and then the visit of Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s Ibrox club on January 2.
Eighteen points are up for grabs in a vital run-in to the three-week winter break and success in these confrontations will go a long way to Celtic reclaiming their title and clinching their tenth championship in eleven years as well as the opportunity of picking up the £40million cash bonanza for entry into the Champions League group stages.
Postecoglou, speaking to The Scotsman, admitted: “I don’t have that [£535,000] at the forefront of my mind, to be fair.
“Perhaps the financial controllers at the club might be thinking the other way, but it’s not something I’m thinking about.
THIRD TIME LUCKY…back-up keeper Scott Bain could make appearance number three of the season against Real Betis.
“It’s about freshening up as we have some big games coming up between now and the break that are very important for our season – including the Cup Final.
“I don’t know, mate, you’ll need to do the sums. What is financially more important to the club, is it tonight or what’s ahead of us?”
No prizes for guessing the route of the Greek-Australian’s thinking.
* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from Celtic v Real Betis this evening – only in your champion CQN.