Celtic return to league action on Saturday afternoon, as they take on Ross County at Celtic Park in the Scottish Premiership.

Six days on from their comfortable 5-0 win over Buckie Thistle in the Scottish Cup, Brendan Rodgers will take on Derek Adams’ struggling Staggies side, as they look to make it six wins on the bounce in all competitions. Indeed, the last time Celtic played a league match was on January 2, as they ran out 3-0 winners over the 10 men of St Mirren.

With Rangers having closed the gap to five points with one of their games in hand, Celtic will be looking to stay ahead of their rivals. The gap may even be shortened once again, as Rangers play St Mirren in Paisley hours before Celtic get around to kicking off, meaning that their lead may be cut down to just two points by the time play commences.

READ MORE: Rodgers' Celtic compared with Postecoglou both home & away

Ross County come into this game in poor form, having last won a game back at the start of December. They find themselves in the relegation play-off spot at present with 18 points, though they have two games in hand. Last time out, they were thoroughly beaten 3-0 at home by Partick Thistle in the Scottish Cup, so Adams will be hoping for a response in this game. It is up to Celtic to make sure that that does not happen.

With all of that being said, who will Rodgers elect to start in this must-win game at Celtic Park? The Celtic Way’s Ryan McGinlay and Tony Haggerty each have their say…

Ryan McGinlay

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Finally, it seems as if Rodgers has some selection headaches to deal with, at least in a couple of key areas. No two ways about it, this is a must-win game for Celtic, regardless of what the Rangers score is just hours before this match gets underway. We are now very much in the business end of the season, with any more dropped points seemingly likely to be pounced upon by Celtic’s rivals, and vice versa. Nothing but a win will do against the Staggies, thus Rodgers’ side must come out on top against Adams’ struggling side.

As usual, Joe Hart will start in goals for the club. He will be hoping for another quiet afternoon like he faced against Buckie Thistle when another clean sheet was added to his collection this campaign. Though the keeper looks as if he will leave in the summer following the end of his contract, he will be Celtic’s starting goalkeeper for the remainder of the season, which brings about stability and consistency in Rodgers’ line-ups at the very least.

As mentioned, there will be some changes for this match, though one will have to be enforced due to injury. The left-back area is a position which has been extensively discussed and will continue to be debated thanks to the injury of Greg Taylor. With Celtic failing to sign reinforcements in this area, they will have to shuffle their deck and choose an alternative. That very alternative will be Liam Scales, who has done nothing to be dropped from his position in the middle of defence. Perhaps a victim of his versatility, he will move over to allow Maik Nawrocki to partner with the returning Cameron Carter-Vickers, fresh off the back of his contract renewal. It will be exciting to see this defensive pairing, especially due to the fact that we’ve only been able to see them play together a couple of times. This run of games will have been beneficial to Nawrocki, as his injury caused him to be out for a long period of time this campaign. As usual, Alistair Johnston will occupy the right-back slot for Rodgers’ side.

READ MORE: Have Celtic left it too late to sign a left-back? - video

Another welcome return will happen in the midfield – despite Odin Thiago Holm’s showing – as captain, Callum McGregor, will return after being granted an extended break by the club. From now until the end of the season, you would expect the skipper to play in pretty much every single game, so giving him that extra week to recuperate will no doubt have helped his cause. Alongside him, Paulo Bernardo will play in the number eight position, as he looks to continue his red-hot form since stepping into the side more regularly last month. Providing goals and assists – much like the man in front of him – the Portugal U21 international is one of the first names on the teamsheet at present and is a good bet to contribute positively once again this weekend. Despite interest from Atletico Madrid in the form of a bid, Celtic’s star man Matt O’Riley will continue to play as the furthest forward midfielder for the club. He ran the show – as usual – against Buckie Thistle and will be hoping to do more of the same against Ross County. This midfield should have too much energy, ability and dig for Ross County to deal with.

Into the forward areas, and there may be a potential debut on the cards in the form of January signing Nicolas Kühn. Despite the temptation that Rodgers will have to throw his new player straight into the mix, Liel Abada will continue to feature on the right-hand side. The rumours surrounding the Israel international seem to have died down since the start of the week, so it seems as if the winger will remain where he is. Because of this, he will be a nailed-on starter, as will the man opposite him on the left in Honduras’ Luis Palma. Both wingers bring with them an eye for goal, though their deliveries into the box can be sketchy at times. If Palma and Abada are in the mood, however, then Celtic could win this game by a sizable margin, giving Kühn a perfect scenario to make his Celtic Park bow.

No surprises about who will lead the line for Rodgers this weekend, as Kyogo Furuhashi gets in the team almost by default at this stage. It was great to see him back on the scoresheet against Buckie Thistle – assisted by Abada – though it is time for the Japan striker to kick on in the Premiership. Celtic’s continued success relies on players like Kyogo, with Rodgers yet to see the best of the player under his guidance. Still, this could be the game for it all to come together, ahead of a massive second half of the season.

Despite their injury concerns and absent players, I reckon Celtic will comfortably win this match by a few goals and start as they mean to go on for the rest of this league campaign.

Ryan’s team: Hart; Johnston, Nawrocki, Carter-Vickers, Scales; McGregor, Bernardo; Abada, O’Riley, Palma; Kyogo

Tony Haggerty

It's back to Scottish Premiership business for Celtic after the winter break, as they entertain Adams' struggling Ross County to Parkhead.

Rodgers' men blew off the cobwebs with a fairly routine 5-0 Scottish Cup fourth-round victory over Buckie Thistle, with five different scorers getting on the scoresheet. Any hopes that the Northern Irishman harboured of possibly playing a similar team were blown to smithereens when he announced that left-back Taylor would be missing for a few weeks with a calf injury. The return of USA international centre-back Carter-Vickers - who signed a new five-and-a-half year deal -  will slightly offset that injury setback for the champions but the starting team will need some tweaking. 

Hart will remain between the sticks but will be assisted by a different back four this weekend, with Johnston at right-back and Scales will switch to occupy Taylor's role at left-back. That means Carter-Vickers will form a defensive partnership with Nawrocki.

In midfield, Holm who bagged his first career goal for Celtic will drop out to make way for the return of skipper McGregor, who was rested. The very much in-demand O'Riley who will be staying at the club until the summer at the very least, and the on-form rising Portuguese superstar Bernardo will perform alongside the captain in the engine room.

READ MORE: Celtic's Nawrocki has 'come to the fore' says Rodgers

Abada will start for the second game in a row on the right wing, although I fully expect to see Celtic's new £3 million signing from Rapid Vienna Kühn come on to make his debut at some point, with the manager admitting that he will get some game time and be involved. Kyogo will be deployed through the middle as ever. The Japanese striker was back among the goals against the Highland League side last weekend much to his delight. His fellow goalscorer in that tie, Palma will patrol the left flank as always.

The gap at the top of the table could well be reduced to two points by the time Celtic take to the field of play but Rodgers's men already know that in the race for the Premiership title, there are no margins for error. Celtic to come out of the traps with all guns blazing, and it could well prove to be a long afternoon for the Staggies in Glasgow's east end. Take the men in green and white to win this one comfortably.

Tony's team: Hart; A. Johnston, Carter-Vickers, Nawrocki, Scales, McGregor, O'Riley, Bernardo; Abada, Kyogo, Palma.