Last week’s terrific performance at home to Zenit is alresdy a distant memory after a disappointing draw against St Johnstone with a much changed team and then the midweek no show in St Petersburg.
Nothing quite has us scratching our heads quite like the same starting eleven putting in such contrasting performances just a week apart. What on Earth happens to Celtic that this kind of thing continually happens?
I’m not old enough to remember Celtic doing much in Europe before Martin O’Neill. I grew up in a time when Celtic were lucky to qualify for Europe at all never mind somehow make it beyond Christmas. O’Neill changed that, and since then Gordon Strachan, Neil Lennon, Ronny Deila and Brendan Rodgers gave all allowed us to experience European football beyond new year.
And yet all of them have seen Jekyll and Hyde performances against the same team. What causes it? I have no idea, but the fact it keeps happening to manager after manager suggests it’s something beyond them.
But that is now a question for next season. For now it’s all about getting the domestic campaign back on track. After only taking one point from a possible six and not scoring in either of the last two league games, it’s not really the best of form to be taking into an away game at last season’s runners up.
And they’re not even second now. Our neighbours across the city won yesterday and are now just six points behind us. Aberdeen will need to win today to join them on that mark, so the incentive is clearly there more then ever.
Of course, Aberdeen haven’t been able to take anything off Celtic since Brendan Rodgers arrived. That’s six league games and two domestic cup finals and they’ve lost them all. The last time Aberdeen were able to beat Celtic, Ronny Deila was in charge and they beat Celtic 2-1.
Jonny Hayes was on the scoresheet for Aberdeen that day, and while injury will keep him out today he’ll at least think back fondly to the last time we faced Aberdeen.
Hayes got his first Celtic goal two days before Christmas as Celtic ran out 3-0 winners, Mikael Lustig and Olivier Ntcham were the other scorers that day.
It was a similar scoreline on our last visit to Pittodrie too. October saw Kieran Tierney open the scoring before supplying Moussa Dembele with the second. Dembele would also get the third goal that night in what was probably Celtic’s best performance of the season.
And yes I still think it was better than the home leg against Zenit.
This third meeting of the season may well go differently. We’re not firing on all cylinders and Thursday night’s game was demoralising as well as energy sapping. Aberdeen will fancy their chances despite losing their last game away to Hibernian.
But with Europe now over for another season, surely now is the perfect time for Celtic to finally focus again and get this league wrapped up. Beat Aberdeen today and the gap increases to twelve points between the teams, with the lead at the top back up to nine. With ten games to play, and our nearest rivals to come next month, that’s a healthy position to be in.
Six points clear and stumbling all over the place is certainly not though. So today would seem to be pretty pivotal. If we’re beaten, the others will smell blood. If we win, and ideally win convincingly, then we should find the confidence we need to reach seven in a row and possibly even back to back trebles.
Today is a huge game, as it should be when the best two teams in the country face each other. But we’re the best, it’s about time we showed it once more.
Krys (Twitter @krys1888)