CHRIS SUTTON has named Cameron Carter-Vickers as the returning World Cup star who is absolutely vital to Celtic.
The rock-solid central defender is likely to line up against Aberdeen at Pittodrie this afternoon after his exploits with adopted nation USA in Qatar when he played in the 1-0 win over Iran.
Also back in the fold at Parkhead are Australian midfielder and Japan’s Daizen Maeda with Josip Juranovic still to return with Croatia due to play Morocco in the third-place play-off this afternoon although the right-back will miss out with a calf injury.
But Carter-Vickers is the pivotal figure for Ange Postecoglou, as far as Sutton is concerned.
KEY MAN…Cameron Carter-Vickers is pivotal to Ange Postecoglou’s team.
The champions were sitting at the Premiership pinnacle with a nine-point advantage over a toiling Rangers side before progress was halted with the intrusion of the soccer showpiece in the Middle East.
The former Hoops goal hero reckons the break came at an inopportune time for his old club who go into the north east fixture aiming to restore the margin of their lead after their nearest challengers, with Michael Beale now in charge in place of the sacked Giovanni van Bronckhorst, came back from 2-1 down at the interval to overcome Hibs 3-2 at Ibrox on Thursday.
Sutton said: “It’s crucial for Ange Postecoglou and his team to ensure they come screaming back out the traps at full pelt today to show that hold ups and stoppages won’t be halting their momentum in terms of the title race.
“It’s hard to know how the World Cup shutdown is going to affect teams in terms of their form and whether it changes the course of their respective seasons.
HERE WE GO AGAIN…Ange Postecoglou at the media conference ahead of this afternoon’s game at Pittodrie.
“Put it this way, if the Premiership hadn’t stopped when it did and the pattern continued in the way it was unfolding, the title race could have been over by the time Santa Claus got his white beard dirty sliding down the chimney.
“But it did and, from a Celtic perspective, they must make sure they are stamping their authority on it all once again starting at Pittodrie. I’ve no doubt that Postecoglou has the squad and the set-up to ensure that happens, no matter any effects of the World Cup halt.
“Managers across Europe have opined on how their players may react from the tournament and, looking at Celtic, it’s hard to imagine that it’s anything other than positivity which is coursing through the veins of Daizen Maeda, Aaron Mooy and Cameron Carter-Vickers.
“All three performed with credit when they got their opportunities in Qatar and that’s got to boost their confidence. It’s more the mental aspect.
“Will there be any sort of come-down period from being at the greatest show in the game representing your country and having all those emotional highs and lows to switching back immediately to club business?
CRUNCH…new Bhoy Alistair Johnston shows true grit while playing for Canada against Belgium in the World Cup.
“Josip Juranovic will be the same, even if he might not be around for much longer to test that particular theory at Celtic. Managers are going to find that out shortly and only time will tell.”
Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “In Postecoglou’s favour, he’s got plenty of options to ensure all these lads don’t have to immediately perform now they are back.
“Maeda and Mooy would struggle to get into the team when everyone is fit and fresh, as should be the case after the break with Callum McGregor’s return also a huge bonus.
“Carter-Vickers is the one who, as I look at the squad right now, is needed week-in, week-out. Having him on song from the get-go again is crucial.”
The one-time England international forward added: “Celtic are probably going to lose Juranovic for the same reason and they have been ahead of the game with the capture of Alistair Johnston.
IT TAKES TWO TO TANGLE…Josip Juranovic and Argentina’s Lionel Messi in a battle for possession.
“Seeing the Croat go wouldn’t be ideal from a team point of view. You can tell by the selections in the Champions League that he is the first-choice right-back and, regardless of your succession planning, no manager at any club finds it simple to replace a first choice.
“But it would be excellent for the club’s balance sheet and the evolution of the squad if they get the right price. I’ve already stated that, if Celtic are going to sell, they should be driving a very hard bargain and fighting for top dollar.
“I’d be starting with an asking figure for £25million.
“Given the stupid money being paid out from some leagues and the desperation of January buying, I certainly believe they’d be selling themselves short with anything that dips well below the £20million mark.”