Celtic v Hearts: Match preview and probable line-ups

Kyle Lafferty returns for Hearts after serving a three-match suspension. Picture: SNS Group
Kyle Lafferty returns for Hearts after serving a three-match suspension. Picture: SNS Group
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Hearts travel to the east end of Glasgow with a full squad to choose from, while opponents Celtic could be without up to nine players for the Ladbrokes Premiership clash.

Craig Levein has said he will call on ‘fresh legs’ for the trip to Parkhead and David Milinkovic could return to the starting line-up as a secondary striker behind Kyle Lafferty, who returns from suspension.

Milinkovic has netted twice in his last two games against Hamilton and Motherwell, both after coming off the bench. Steven Naismith is likely to be rested after leading the line during Lafferty’s enforced absence.

Andy Irving could be given a starting berth in a five-man midfield if Levein opts for a 3-5-1-1 formation, while Michael Smith could be utilised as the third centre back with Aaron Hughes expected to take a seat on the bench.

Harry Cochrane, who scored the opening goal in the Jambos’ 4-0 win over Celtic in December, could also start on the bench having seen regular game time recently. Anthony McDonald, Jamie Brandon and Lewis Moore could all feature among the replacements while recent signing Danny Amankwaa is likely to be named as a substitute as well.

Celtic could also have to call on their crop of youngsters, with the Hoops missing nearly a full team of players through injury, although new signing Charly Musonda could feature from the bench.

Craig Gordon, Leigh Griffiths and Mikael Lustig are all ruled out - Gordon for 12 weeks and Griffiths for four - while Brendan Rodgers is also without Stuart Armstrong, Marvin Compper, Jonny Hayes, Anthony Ralston, Patrick Roberts and Tom Rogic. Lustig’s absence could see Kristoffer Ajer continue at right back, with Ralston injured and Cristian Gamboa probably unlikely to start.

Dorus de Vries will get the nod in goal but with Gordon injured and Conor Hazard on loan at Falkirk, Celtic under-20s ‘keeper Ross Doohan is likely to be named as the substitute goalie. Calvin Miller, Mikey Johnston, Jack Aitchison and Ewan Henderson could all be included in the squad.

Last five meetings: Hearts 4-0 Celtic; Celtic 4-1 Hearts; Celtic 2-0 Hearts; Hearts 0-5 Celtic; Celtic 4-0 Hearts.

Likely Celtic team (4-2-3-1): De Vries; Ajer, Boyata, Simunovic, Tierney; Brown, Ntcham; Forrest, McGregor, Sinclair; Dembele. Subs from: Doohan, Gamboa, Bitton, Eboue, Miller, Musonda, Johnston, Aitchison, Edouard, Henderson

Likely Hearts team: (3-5-1-1): McLaughlin; Smith, Souttar, Berra; Randall, Cowie, Djoum, Irving, Mitchell; Milinkovic; Lafferty. Subs from: Hamilton, Brandon, Hughes, Cochrane, Callachan, Buaben, Henderson, McDonald, Moore, Keena, Naismith, Zanatta, Amankwaa

Referee: Craig Thomson

Kick-off: 7.45pm

Odds: Celtic 6/25 Draw 11/2 Hearts 16/1 (Odds correct at the time of writing)

For more statistics, visit our dedicated Hearts page