FORMER Celtic striker Chris Sutton reckons Ronny Deila will give Nadir Ciftci the nod ahead of Leigh Griffiths for Wednesday’s Euro confrontation with Qarabag.
The ex-England international admitted: “Getting it right up front for the first leg at Parkhead is crucial. And, for me by a millimetre, I’d pick Ciftci.
“This is crunch time. Make no mistake, Celtic have a real game here.
“Don’t be kidded because the opposition are from Azerbaijan and hardly anyone has heard of them.
“Having done some research and spoken with Stilyan Petrov about them, this is a major test. It’s right up there with the Legia Warsaw tie at the same stage of the competition a year ago.
“You would think the best chance of going through comes with a good result at Parkhead and the defence, which still concerns me at times, is going to have to be spot on.
“Ronny, in my opinion, will stick with the majority of the side which faced Stjarnan in the second leg with Charlie Mulgrew at left-back instead of Emilio Izaguirre.
“Craig Gordon, Mikael Lustig, Virgil van Dijk, Dedryck Boyata, Scott Brown and Nir Bitton pick themselves to complete the back seven positions, which leaves the front four. They are the ones who are going to have to do the damage.
“And if you go on the basis that Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong were signed to play in these games and Stefan Johansen will be picked, it leaves the striking position as a straight choice.
T”his is Ronny’s dilemma and here’s my reasoning for picking the Turk. Both Ciftci and Griffiths have big assets, but those assets are very different.
“When Griffiths went on against Stjarnan, he was playing on the shoulder. He almost did it with his first touch. He’s always looking to go in behind.
“Cifcti does it very differently. His first instinct is to drop short.
“When a ball is going into the box, Ciftci is always on his heels, Griffiths is always on his toes and on the move.
“If Celtic are going to dominate the ball and Qarabag sit deep, you need a foil to hold it in and bring others into the game. Cifcti is a better bet for that.
“At times last season in Europe, Celtic could not get up the pitch. The ball kept coming back. They didn’t have someone who could hold it up and give the rest a chance to join in.
“Griffiths would probably be better in the second leg if Qarabag are behind in the tie and chasing a result at home, leaving spaces. He can exploit that where Ciftci wouldn’t.
“But, at Celtic Park, I’d go for Ciftci. For him to be effective, he needs Johansen to play closer to him, to work off his touches, to run in behind.
“This is absolutely nothing against Griffiths. There will be situations where he is a far better option than Cifcti.
“But for this European game, the chance of Cifcti taking the physical stuff on, dropping off and letting others get beyond him is enticing.”