BRENDAN Rodgers has a big decision to make before pinning up his team sheet, if this is what still happens, before tomorrow night’s meeting with Rosenborg.
Does he go with Odsonne Edouard, the record buy who the Celtic manager has invested so much time and money on? Or Leigh Griffiths with his 100 goals for the club? The question has been asked before and the answer so far has gone in Edouard’s favour. However, things have shifted slightly which makes the call an interesting one.
One has a chance to become a real start but is raw and only 20. The Frenchman is a talent but seems to be missing Moussa Dembele.
The other all-but guarantees his team goals, and assists, but has found himself on the side-lines for Celtic and Scotland, something which does puzzle those of us on the outside given what Griffiths keeps doing.
Rodgers has gone with Edouard so far in the bigger matches; however, is this the game he turns to his 28-year-old, who last week agreed a new four-year deal, who is bursting to get a start and whose record in Europe in terms of goals cannot be argued with?
It is a dilemma. Although were Rodgers to ask a cross section of support, the majority would like to see the lad from Leith who right now faces not one but two court appearances for allegedly speeding. Griffiths is far from perfect but he knows where the back of the net is.
Rodgers believes ten points will take Celtic through to the Europa League group stage – which it will – and for that to happen the Scottish champions had better return to winning at home. They have not won a group stage match at Celtic Park for the past three seasons. Now there is a thought.
Goals win games. Football changes all the time but that cliché remains true. So, who would you want out of the two, only, first-team strikers to be through on the Rosenborg goalkeeper last in the match with the game sitting at 0-0?
A former Celtic striker, George McCluskey, didn’t miss many chances in his trophy-laden years at the club and is glad that he doesn’t have to make this decision.
Still a youth coach at the club where he won every domestic medal and scored 78 goals – he was a seriously terrific centre-forward – the man who got a winner in the 1980 Scottish Cup Final and scored on the night in 1979 Celtic won the league, both against Rangers, is a fan of both players but he was just leaning towards Griffiths when pushed.
“Leigh always looks like scoring,” said McCluskey who remains a huge favourite of the supporter of a certain age. “He likes shooting from outside the box, which I like, and has great delivery from corners and there are his free-kicks as well.
“I can’t think of a game where he hasn’t at least made the goalkeeper make a save. He’s a natural goalscorer, you don’t get 100 goals for Celtic by not being that, and his work outside the box and off the ball has got a lot better.
“What people have to keep in mind about Odsonne is that he is 20. In football terms he’s a baby. He’s a young man in a foreign country and for him to achieve what he already has with us it’s great credit to him.
“The manager is a fan and he sees him every day in training. That’s important. If you are asking who starts then a lot depends on who has looked sharper over the last few days.
“I think it would be fair to say that neither Leigh nor Odsonne have really got going yet. I would love to see them hit it off on the park because there are potentially a lot of goals in that partnership. When they click, and they will, the fans will really see something.”
Celtic are in the Europa League because that’s where they deserve to be. Too many errors on and off the park resulted in their defeat to AEK Athens but right now, Europe’s second competition is where even the best team in Scotland perform.
Talk of reaching the latter stages is premature, as if Rosenborg, FC Salzburg or RB Leipzig won’t fancy their own chances, but Celtic have a chance, which is all they can ask, of doing something in this tournament.
They reached the quarter-final of what was the UEFA Cup in 2004. Celtic lost out to Villarreal, where Rangers will be tomorrow evening, and Martin O’Neill rues to this day the loss to injury of John Hartson, Chris Sutton and John Kennedy before those two legs.
This Celtic team have made history but are not as good as the one which starred the above mentioned plus Henrik Larsson, Stan Petrov, Alan Thompson, Jackie McNamara and Bobo Balde.
However, as McCluskey pointed out, momentum is a terrific thing in football when it’s going for you and a good start would, he hopes, set his old club up for some fun and games.
“We have already played them twice this season and beat them so, for me, that is advantage Celtic,” said McCluskey. “We need to win this first game. I think everyone would agree with that. And then let’s see where it takes us.
“I can’t help but think back to the Seville run. We started winning games and that momentum took us to the final. Look, I’m not saying that will happen again but if we start well, can keep that going and get those two lads scoring goals, then you just never know.”