FORMER Celtic star Davie Provan insists his old team are “a shambles” in defence.

The former Hoops and Scotland international winger is far from convinced by Ange Postecoglou’s rearguard performers after two howlers threw AZ Alkmaar a lifeline in the crucial Europa League play-off final in the Netherlands on Thursday.

Stephen Welsh and Joe Hart combined to gift the Dutch side an equaliser on the night after Kyogo Furuhashi had thumped the visitors into the lead in two minutes and 10 seconds to stretch their overall advantage to 3-0.

And it didn’t get much better when £4.5million Swede Carl Starfelt swung at a hopeful right-wing cross and diverted the ball beyond his startled keeper for a second goal.

DUTCH COURAGE…Ange Posetcoglou guides his team from the dug-out in Alkmaar.

Postecoglou witnessed his side fight a backs-to-the-wall battle for over an hour before cementing their place in the group stages.

Hart and Co go back into the spotlight at Ibrox in the midday kick-off this afternoon during the first Glasgow derby of the campaign.

Provan said: “If Ange Postecoglou has transformed the apology of a Celtic team he inherited, he’d privately admit the bleeding obvious — his Hoops are a shambles at the back.

“You don’t win anything when your defence is throwing them in for fun.

“When Celts went three up in Holland, Big Ange should have been lighting up his best Havana. Instead, he finished the game watching through the cracks in his fingers.

“Trust me, no amount of coaching is going to fix Celtic’s current defensive problems.

“Unless Dominic McKay gets some proper defenders in before the window closes, Hoops supporters will be munching Valium watching this team.

“I had my say on Joe Hart before he arrived in Glasgow. A guy who performs like the best keeper in the world at times has always had a ricket in him. His blunder against AZ Alkmaar is par for the course.

“But if the former England No 1 is a worry the boys in front of him are the real problem.

EURO JOY BHOYS…Joe Hart and Liel Abada celebrate at the final whistle in the Netherlands.

“Josip Juranovic will add quality at right-back, but the centre-back pairing won’t do. Sorry if that’s tough on Stephen Welsh who, at 21, has loads of improvement in him.

“But the youngster is miles off the finished article at the moment — as we saw at Alkmaar’s equaliser.

“Welsh should be getting the odd game here and there against suitable opposition. Instead, he’s being forced to perform at a level he’s not ready for.

“He would benefit from having a time-served operator beside him. But if Carl Starfelt is a Swedish international, he’s hiding it well.

“Never wise to judge players too early, but Starfelt is making former Gers’ bombscare Bert Konterman resemble Franco Baresi.

“The Swede owes Postecoglou a performance this afternoon.”

Provan, writing in his Scottish Sun on Sunday column, continued: “Unlike his board, Postecoglou is doing a good job. Fans are lapping up his brand of football even if it’s a white-knuckle ride.

“But the honeymoon comes to an end at Ibrox. This is the moment of truth for this new Celts side.

SWEDE’N’SOUR…Carl Starfelt has not convinced Davie Provan.

“I’m not wearing the idea Postecoglou’s team can open up in every game.

“His game plan should depend on the quality of the opposition. He can’t leave this back four exposed to good players.

“If Gers have their Covid victims back, this will be Postecoglou’s biggest test yet.”

The one-time Parkhead supporters’ favourite added: “Hoops fans believe they have the firepower to win at Ibrox. Hard to disagree with Kyogo Furuhashi in current form.

“While Postecoglou would get away with a defeat, Steven Gerrard would come under more pressure.

“A team that lost just 13 league goals in 38 games last season, looks a shadow of itself.

CHEERS…Kyogo Furushashi is looking to add to his seven goals at Ibrox this afternoon.

“Gerrard needs his big players to turn up. Alfredo Morelos couldn’t hit a barn door in Armenia, while Ryan Kent has lost his sparkle. Joe Aribo will be more of a worry for Celtic.

“At the other end, how will Connor Goldson and Filip Helander handle the movement of Furuhashi and Liel Abada? Mr Reliable last season, Goldson has been well off it.

“Whatever the result, the next couple of days are more likely to determine the destination of the title.

“If Postecoglou is allowed to bring in the players he desperately needs, a title challenge is on.

“That’s assuming the board don’t cut his throat by flogging Ryan Christie and Odsonne Edouard without replacing them.”

* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report on Rangers v Celtic this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.

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