After Rangers’ Saturday slip, Brendan Rodgers’ side will try to take advantage at Rugby Park in the Scottish Premiership
Celtic will aim to put the disappointment of Thursday’s Europa League loss to Valencia behind them when they travel to face Kilmarnock on Sunday.
Brendan Rodgers’ men performed below expectation as they went down 2-0 at home to the Spanish giants in midweek, seriously compromising their prospects of progression.
And they still have a good deal of work to do if they are to win the Scottish Premiership, despite a healthy five-point advantage over Rangers, who could only draw with St Johnstone on Saturday.
Killie, meanwhile, are winless in their last four matches but showed how dangerous a side they are when they beat Rangers 2-1 at Rugby Park on January 23.
||Kilmarnock vs Celtic
||Sunday, February 17
||4:00pm GMT / 11:00am ET
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||MacDonald, Bachmann, Mackay
||Findlay, Bruce, Broadfoot, Boyd, Higgins, Taylor, Waters, O’Donnell, Millen
||Tshibola, Dicker, Power, Burke, Jones, Frizzell
||Ndjoli, McKenzie, McAleny, Brophy, Millar, Boyd
Kilmarnock have doubts over the availability of Eamonn Brophy and Stuart Findlay ahead of this match.
Definitely missing is midfielder Youssuf Mulumbu, who is ineligible to face his parent club.
Possible Kilmarnock starting XI: Bachmann; O’Donnell, Broadfoot, Boyd, Taylor; Power, Dicker, Tshibola; Burke, McAleny, Jones
||Gordon, Bain, De Vries
||Toljan, Izaguirre, Hendry, Simunovic, Gambao, Boyata, Lustig, Benkovic, Ajer, Tierney, Gutman
||Brown, Sinclair, Hayes, Ntcham, McGregor, Forrest, Henderson, Johnston, Allan
||Edouard, Burke, Weah
Celtic’s injury list remains extensive but is, little by little, reducing. Kieran Tierney, for example, is back training but is unlikely to be available for this encounter, although Emilio Izaguirre’s poor midweek display may hasten his return.
Anthony Ralston, Filip Benkovic, Eboue Jouassi, Tom Rogic, Olivier Ntcham and Daniel Arzani are all injured, while there are doubts over Leigh Griffiths.
Some rotation ahead of the return leg against Valencia is possible, with Kristoffer Ajer liable to replace Jozo Simunovic in defence.
Possible Celtic starting XI: Bain; Toljan, Ajer, Boyata, Izaguirre; Brown, McGregor; Forrest, Christie, Sinclair; Edouard
Celtic are favourites to come out on top at Rugby, with bet365 offering odds of 2/5 on a Bhoys victory. Kilmarnock are considered a 7/1 bet to win, while a draw is 7/2.
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Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers was left fizzing with his side’s 2-0 defeat against Valencia on Thursday, a result that means their hopes of progression to the last 16 of the Europa League hang by the thinnest of threads.
The Northern Irishman was furious with his side’s lack of focus, which means they will travel to Spain on Thursday with a mountain to climb.
“The lessons are you need to really concentrate, there wasn’t a lot in the game,” he said.
“If you take away the two mistakes there wasn’t a lot of chances for either side.
“Unfortunately for us we made too many mistakes. When you do that against good teams it kills your momentum, puts you on the back foot.
“We have to learn from it, we have a lot of young players, and next week if we can get the first goal it can bring a different possibility for us.”
Before worrying about their trip to the Mestalla, however, the Bhoys have Kilmarnock to negotiate domestically.
A five-point advantage over second-placed Rangers is a healthy one, with Aberdeen and Saturday’s opponents having fallen off the pace since the winter break.
Celtic, meanwhile, have won all of their last seven domestic matches without conceding so much as a goal and will start as favourites against Steve Clarke’s men.
Killie’s level might have dropped of late, but they have proven to be a menace to the Old Firm sides since Jose Mourinho’s former Chelsea assistant took charge. Indeed, they have twice hosted Rangers in 2019, beating them in the league and setting up a midweek Scottish Cup replay by drawing scoreless last weekend.
“You can see that any time we come up against the big teams, we can give them a game,” the manager told the BBC after last weekend’s draw.
He will expect that to be the case on Sunday, too.
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