Celtic v Hearts preview: Youngsters to start? | trio a cup final doubt | wonderkid in contention to play
Hearts travel to Celtic Park this Sunday for the final game of their Ladbrokes Premiership campaign.
A season which initially offered so much promise ultimately failed to deliver an improved performance on last year’s sixth place finish as the Tynecastle club have won just four league games in 2019.
However, there is still the matter of the Scottish Cup final, which will take place against the same opposition the following Saturday. A victory in that match and this Hearts will write themselves into the club’s history books forever.
Before then there is the matter of a dress rehearsal between the two sides this weekend - though, honestly, this coming contest won’t have much in common with the Hampden final as both sides are expected to completely overhaul their line-up.
Craig Levein has already spoken of his intent to play the young players in the squad, with the likes of Harry Cochrane and Connor Smith expected to get a chance.
As for Celtic, 16-year-old ‘wonderkid’ Karamoko Dembele could make his debut. The youngster has been training with the first-team squad and interim boss Neil Lennon admitted that he’d be looking to rest a number of first-team players.
Celtic team news
James Forrest (hamstring), Kieran Tierney (hernia) and Scott Brown (toe) are all likely to sit out. There is also likely to be no place for Odsonne Edouard, Mikael Lustig and Jonny Hayes, who are all suffering from tight hamstrings. Ryan Christie (face), Jack Hendry, Vakoun Bayo, Dedryck Boyata (all hamstring), Craig Gordon, Eboue Kouassi and Daniel Arzani (all knee) are still out. Leigh Griffiths is back training after dealing with personal issues.
Possible Celtic team
Bain; Toljan, Ajer, Simunovic, Izaguirre; Henderson, McGregor, Ntcham; Johnston, Burke, Sinclair. Subs from: De Vries, Benkovic, Rogic, Bitton, Dembele, Allan, Ralston, Gamboa.
Hearts team news
Hearts are unlikely to risk Arnaud Djoum, Uche Ikpeazu and Peter Haring for the match on Sunday. Ikpeazu (hamstring), Haring (groin) and Djoum (Achilles) have still to prove their fitness for Hampden with Levein saying there’s a possibility they could miss the clash. Callumn Morrison, Aidan Keena, Ben Garuccio, Demetri Mitchell and Steven Naismith are all still out with knee injuries.
Possible Hearts team
Zlamal; Smith, Souttar, Shaughnessy, Hickey; Cochrane, C Smith, Irving; Clare, Wighton, Mulraney. Subs from: Doyle, Godinho, Brandon, Berra, Dikamona, Burns, Lee, Bozanic, Morrison, Vanecek, MacLean, Edwards.
16 - The number of games Hearts have gone without victory at Celtic Park.
It will be interesting to see which midfielder shines the most on Sunday: Hearts’ Harry Cochrane or Celtic’s Euan Henderson. Both are similar types of players: creative sorts with good technique and an eye for a pass.
Craig Thomson was recently in charge of Hearts’ 1-1 draw with rivals Hibs at Easter Road. Hearts have encountered him on three other occasions this season, winning twice (at Dundee and home to St Johnstone) and losing once (away to St Mirren).
Celtic 27/100 Draw 24/5 Hearts 9/1
Sign up to our newsletter: enter your email in the box at the top of this article to get daily updates straight to your inbox.