Depleted Celtic ripe for the taking
Inverness CT 1Celtic 2
Celtic faced a Rooney on Saturday who contributed to a goal against them and in all probability the same will happen tomorrow when they face Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Champions League.
But that is where the similarities between this SPL match and the European game are likely to end. Inverness's Rooney is Adam, a 20-year-old released by Stoke in the summer and who has scored once for Thistle this season. A sub against Celtic, his headed flick-on supplied Garry Wood's consolation. United's Rooney is Wayne, scorer of 19 goals for England, five of them since 10 September in a run of nine goals for club and country.
Caley were not capable of punishing a poor Celtic, who were undermined by a growing catalogue of injuries. United at their best should be capable of tearing Gordon Strachan's side apart. Celtic in this depleted state look a mess, and ripe for the taking.
Only two players, Scott Brown and Barry Robson, contributed much of note for the visitors, Brown bustling and Robson hustling, but neither of them for the whole match. Brown scored Celtic's opener after Robson and Lee Naylor combined to set him up. Robson provided the cross for Glenn Loovens to head home for 2-0.
Loovens's role was a mystery. If the Dutch centre-half was meant to be right-back, he failed to show it, staying wide right in a midfield four most of the time. But then that quartet looked confused throughout. Marc Crosas seemed unsure if he should act as a defensive or attacking midfielder. Brown and Robson were given licence to get forward but with no clear remit. And the two wingers, Aiden McGeady – a left footer assigned to the right – and Shaun Maloney, on the left, looked unsure whether to stick to what they do best (runs from the flanks and crosses) or try to offer more forward support to a lone central striker, Scott McDonald.
McDonald was understandably tired, having just returned from Australia's 4-0 World Cup qualifying win over Qatar in Brisbane on Wednesday. Strachan used him for 64 minutes against Caley because of limited options. Celtic's injury crisis, while not confined to attack, is worst there.
Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink is sidelined by a groin injury. Georgios Samaras returned from Greece duty in midweek with a cartilage tear and had surgery in Dublin yesterday. New Zealander Chris Killen, normally a standby for that pair, is out after an injury in training late last week.
Thus McDonald played alone up front at the weekend and will probably do so again in Manchester.
First-choice right-back Andreas Hinkel is injured, so Mark Wilson will probably play though he, too, is recovering from injury. Central defender Gary Caldwell needed stitches on Saturday in a foot wound. If he fails to recover, Loovens could step in, but at best Celtic will be patched up.
Their away record in the Champions League is woeful: 15 defeats and one draw from 16 games in the group stages over the years. In a perfect world they could aspire to win in Manchester and be delighted with a point. In reality, they will pack midfield with those who can stand, and hope for set-piece breakthroughs against a backdrop of backs-to-the-wall defending.
Brown and Robson should start, and a holding midfielder would be no surprise. Dead-ball specialist Shunsuke Nakamura may return to the starting line-up with McGeady or Maloney making way.
Goals: Brown (48) 0-1; Loovens (65) 0-2; Wood (69) 1-2.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle (4-4-2): Fraser; Tokely, McGuire (Duff, 56), Munro, Hastings; Imrie, Duncan, Black (Rooney, 66), McBain (Wilson, 75); Cowie, Wood. Substitutes not used: Esson (gk), Djebi-Zadi, Sutherland, Vigurs.
Celtic (3-4-3): Boruc; Caldwell (Wilson, 64), McManus, Naylor; Loovens, S Brown, Crosas (Hartley, 90), Robson; McGeady, McDonald (Sheridan, 64), Maloney. Substitutes not used: M Brown (gk), McCourt, Nakamura, O'Dea.
Referee: I Brines.
Booked: Inverness: Black, Imrie, Tokely. Celtic: Crosas, S Brown, McGeady.
Man of the match: Wood.