The first half against Hearts was as good as we had played this season, and while the second half had a pretty poor goal to concede it was largely a foot off the gas performance.
But last weekend’s defeat at Kilmarnock was a case of anything that could go wrong did go wrong. Two injuries in defence meant we were forced to make changes and left little room to adjust tactically later. The horrible artificial pitch there may well be to blame, but we’ve not had much luck with injuries at all this season anyway.
Nothing seemed to click with us, creating just a single shot on target all day. With Kilmarnock defending resolutely and being a threat at the other end, all the pieces were there for our second domestic defeat under Brendan Rodgers.
Bad day at the office? Perhaps. But we’ve had too many of them lately and we simply cannot afford to have another one today. Do that today and the dream of another treble is dead.
The draw gave us a home tie, yes, but against a Partick Thistle team that gave us a scare just a couple of weeks ago. At half time, Thistle were leading through a Connor Sammon penalty after Mikael Lustig had conceded the spot kick by pulling back Miles Storey. Some debated whether it should be a red card, but there was enough doubt to give Lustig the benefit.
Fortunately Celtic turned things around in the second half. Scott Sinclair levelled from the spot following Mustapha Dumbuya’s foul on him, before Leigh Griffiths got the winner with twenty minutes to play.
Of course, Griffiths is one of a team worth of players who can’t play today through injury. Dedryck Boyata and Kristoffer Ajer are still injured after Kilmarnock, Anthony Ralston, Jonny Hayes, Tom Rogic and Patrick Roberts are all long term injured as is Craig Gordon. Throw in Marvin Compper who hasn’t featured for us yet and that’s nine players. I’ve probably missed a couple!
Yet our squad should still be big enough to cope. It’s not ideal, but we do have players like Dorus de Vries, Jozo Simunovic, Moussa Dembele, James Forrest, Callum McGregor and Scott Sinclair who all play in positions similar to those out injured and are more than capable of doing a job for us.
Not to mention that this is the first time since before the league started that we’ve actually had a free midweek to work on proper training at Lennoxtown! That full week of preparation, when Partick Thistle had to host the other Glasgow team in a league match in midweek, might do us a lot of good. Certainly we can hope the likes of Charly Musonda has benefited from some quality training pitch time with his still relatively new teammates.
The tricky bits are how to deal with the holes. If Lustig isn’t fit, do you play three at the back again? Who comes in there along side Simunovic, because Jack Hendry can’t as he’s cup-tied? Does Tierney play in that back three or does he push up looking to create?
Although we’ve played Partick Thistle at Celtic Park in the League Cup far more recently, and I for one will never forget the abject penalty shootout in 2002 which Celtic won 5-4 after eighteen penalties, it’s been a full thirty years since we faced Thistle in the Scottish Cup.
Yep, it’s time to get all misty eyed, it’s the centenary season!
Having narrowly seen off Stranraer in the third round, and then even more narrowly Hibernian in a fourth round replay, Celtic travelled to an under renovation Firhill for the fifth round tie. Goals from Andy Walker, Tommy Burns and Billy Stark will ensured Celtic’s progress to the semi finals with a 3-0 win. It was Celtic’s only comfortable victory of the entire run, with the memorable turnarounds against Hearts and Dundee United to follow at Hampden.
It might be the fifth round again this time, but there’s an extra round these days and so there’ll be no guaranteed trip to Hampden with victory today. But as with all cup competitions, the goal today is simply to be I the hat for the next round. A comfortable and entertaining win would be nice, but any win will do.
But of course the game itself is now somewhat overshadowed by the awful news that broke last night about Liam Miller’s passing.
Liam was my age, and really made a name for himself in probably my favourite season. Those performances in the Champions League against Lyon and Anderlecht, games where he scored, showed just how much talent he had. They got him his dream move to his boyhood heroes and he took it. He lived so many dreams in his short life but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have had many more years to try and live more dreams.
Cancer doesn’t care and comes in many forms. It can affect anyone at any age. Liam isn’t even the first from that 2003/04 season. He played along side Stiliyan Petrov and John Hartson back then, and coming through the youth setup at Celtic I’m sure he worked closely with Tommy Burns.
Today we will remember him in a minute’s silence and the players will wear black armbands in his memory.
Krys (Twitter @krys1888)