Celtic will be hoping to continue their bid for a domestic treble with victory over rivals Rangers this afternoon, with the Old Firm foes set to go head to head in a mouthwatering, Scottish Cup semi-final showdown at Hampden Park.
Ahead of that pivotal encounter, Ange Postecoglou has provided a real lift to Hoops supporters after confirming that the likes of Liel Abada, Jota and Reo Hatate will be in contention to feature, with the star trio having been absent through injury in recent games.
The return of those key figures could well be bad news for those who have been part of the starting lineup in recent games, with versatile winger Sead Haksabanovic one such asset who could seemingly give way, with Jota likely to take his place on the flanks.
The summer signing has started the last two Scottish Premiership games although has not totally taken the chance to impress, having failed to provide a single goal involvement in either of those appearances.
While the forward’s work ethic was ‘notable’ – according to Glasgow World’s Lewis Anderson – in the recent draw with Motherwell after winning nine total duels, he did lose possession 19 times in that 65-minute showing, having also been dribbled past on two occasions.
The Montenegro international has hardly disgraced himself, although he perhaps cannot match the stellar quality of a player such as Jota, with the Portuguese having laid on 21 goals and assists in just 29 league games this season.
Haksabanovic may not be alone in dropping out of the side, however, with the return of Hatate also potentially set to ensure that compatriot Tomoki Iwata is also ousted from his starting berth.
Will Iwata start against Celtic?
The Yokohama F Marinos loanee – who is set to sign for the Bhoys on a permanent deal worth just £828k – has made an encouraging start to life at Parkhead, with pundit Frank McAvennie suggesting that the Japanese ace is now “ready to flourish”.
Previously hailed as an “unbelievable athlete” by former boss Kevin Muscat, Iwata was also the recipient of significant praise from the aforementioned Anderson for his display last time out, having produced an ‘outstanding performance’ in the centre of the park.
Despite having now started three of the last four games in Hatate’s absence, it is perhaps telling that the one game that the 26-year-old was on the bench for was against today’s opponents, with that perhaps a sign that Postecoglou will not rush him into action in such a pressurised clash.
The 5 foot 10 ace has shown signs of promise of late alongside Callum McGregor at the base of the midfield – having been hailed as a “tank” by teammate Matt O’Riley – although for a man who has made just 11 appearances for the club to date, it may be wise for him to sit out the meeting with Michael Beale’s men.
With O’Riley himself also bang in form – having recorded three goal involvements in his last three games – it would be no surprise to see the Denmark U21 international lining up alongside Hatate and McGregor, ahead of the unlucky Iwata.
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