With a Scottish Cup semi final berth secured last weekend after a mild scare from the best team we’ve faced domestically this season, it’s back to league duty to try and sew up the title before we continue our attempt to win a first domestic treble since 2000/01.
The team we face next in the league is actually the team we’ll also face next in the cup, and indeed they were one of the four teams we had to face on the way to clinching the League Cup too. It seems then that so called Rangers are quite a relevant team to us these days.
Indeed, so called Rangers can technically still stop us winning both of the remaining trophies. Obviously beating us in the Scottish Cup semi final is the easier of the two, but with eleven games to play in the league they can still mathematically catch us.
I mean, they’d need to win all eleven matches, hope we lost all eleven of our matches, and even then they would only match our current points total of 79 so they would need to make up the goal difference. Given ours is +57 and theirs is +5, even if you accept that we would lose at least one a game and they would gain at least one a game then they would still need to make up a further 30 goals.
They’d need a few more 6-0 wins like their Scottish Cup quarter final against Hamilton Accies then. Admittedly, when their goalkeeper is allowed to handle outside of the penalty area, they get penalties for players falling of their own feet, and their players are allowed to boot the opposition and only get a yellow card, then maybe it’s not totally beyond the bounds of possibility.
Then again, we still haven’t lost a single game this season, never mind losing every one of the next eleven.
So called Rangers, on the other hand, may have won the last two matches they’ve played but prior to that they had lost two and only took one point from a possible twelve in February. Indeed, as they travel to Celtic Park, they haven’t won any of the last three on the road. Not since they beat Motherwell at Fir Park back in January have they won on the road, and even that followed a draw away to St Johnstone just before their last game against us.
That game was probably the best of the three against us for this weekend’s visitors from across the city.
So called Rangers started the stronger of the two teams and opened the scoring through Kenny Miller. They couldn’t make it to half time though as Moussa Dembele was left unmarked at a corner to fire in the equaliser. After that, it was a matter of time before Celtic took the lead, although Scott Sinclair’s goal was the only further scoring in the game. It probably should have been more, and yet so called Rangers probably felt hard done by as a Miller chance came back off the post.
Prior to that encounter at Ibrox there was the aforementioned League Cup semi final at Hampden. In a game Celtic dominated, it took until the last minute of the game for Dembele to score courtesy of a double nutmeg. The scoreline might have been tight, but the game was nothing of the sort as Celtic dominated the chances and again probably should have scored more.
The only game of the three where Celtic actually did make the scoreline reflect the gulf was the first game between the two teams at Celtic Park. Back in September, Dembele scored twice in the first half before Joe Garner pulled a goal back for the visitors before half time. Sinclair make it 3-1 before Dembele completed his hat trick and Stuart Armstrong rounded off the scoring in a 5-1 rout. Some would point to the sending off of Philip Senderos as a turning point, but only if they hadn’t actually seen the game.
Garner won’t be scoring any goals this weekend though as both he and Rob Kiernan are suspended for the tie. Whether that means Senderos will be back to play at Celtic Park again remains to be see, as it could equally be Clint Hill that partners Danny Wilson in the centre of defence. Kenny Miller will no doubt look to further expand on his goals against Celtic, but sadly we won’t be treated to the sight of Joey Barton strolling around the pitch doing absolutely nothing like on their last visit.
Of course, the big problems at so called Rangers are further up the chain. Since our visit to Ibrox on Hogmanay, so called Rangers have accepted the non-resignation of their entire management staff and had to run with under-20 coach Graeme Murty in the dugout. Murty will be pleased though, having been disappointed when Celtic couldn’t play in his testimonial for Reading to 2008.
This might even be his last game in charge of the first team. Although so called Rangers have tried to get a Director of Football in, and then on the day Southampton’s Ross Wilson turned them down we had Ally McCoist try to convince us they are a waste of time, it looks like they may well have got their new head coach/manager/scapegoat in Pedro Caixinha. The Al-Gharafa manager has been the name the press have been watching closely for the last couple of weeks, probably in an effort to work out how to pronounce it so most of them can get it wrong anyway, but he won’t be joining up until after Sunday’s match at least.
That could mean a very different looking so called Rangers for the cup tie, and if Caixinha is as good as the media hope he is then they’ll still be looking to win the Champions League this season. I hadn’t realised there were so many experts in the Qatari league in Scotland, shows what I know really.
For now, Celtic’s focus will be on another three points. Regardless of what Aberdeen do in their game on Saturday at home to Motherwell, Celtic can’t clinch the title this weekend. We can certainly end so called Rangers ability to do so if we stop them winning, but with Celtic currently on a 22 game winning streak and just three away from equalling the record set in 2003/04, I doubt we want to do anything other than win.
There is, of course, the rivalry factor feeding that too. No one at Celtic wants to give our city rivals even a sniff of bragging rights on anything. No winning run ending result, no hope for the Scottish Cup semi final next month, not even a boost as they try to catch Aberdeen for the runners-up spot.
With Bobby Madden the latest awful referee to take one of our matches, we can only hope we don’t give him too many decisions to make. Steven McLean certainly didn’t have anything when we visited Ibrox, so hopefully it’s a similar scenario this time too. Mind you, we might not get much of a say in that, I’m certain Hamilton didn’t have too much choice in the three dreadful decisions that went against them.
Mind you, to his credit, Hamilton boss Martin Canning spent more time focusing on his own team’s awful defending. We should do likewise, and ensure we give the visitors nothing while taking our own chances when they come. Do that and I’m confident of another three points on the board and another happy derby victory to silence ra peepil.
Krys (Twitter @krys1888)