Endgame

It really should be over by now.

When we won the derby 2-1 at the end of March we went thirteen points clear. There was talk of us wrapping up the title that week, but our city rivals didn’t drop any points. Indeed, they haven’t dropped any points since that defeat so a couple of home goalless draws have seen that gap come down to nine points.

But here we are. After last weekend’s narrow win over Kilmarnock, we need just a single point at Pittodrie to get over the line and clinch our eighth consecutive league title.

Our form would suggest we will do just that. Celtic haven’t lost a domestic game in 2019, with sixteen wins and three draws across the league and cup. True, one of those three draws came against today’s opposition in the league game at Celtic Park, but we have since beaten Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup semi final too.

Aberdeen games this season have all followed broadly the same pattern. Aberdeen set up to frustrate us and we try to batter our way through. It didn’t work in the last league game and so we played out a goalless draw. It took a bit of brilliance from Scott Sinclair in the first league meeting and a bit of brilliance from Ryan Christie in the League Cup final to break through.

Last month’s semi final may have finished 3-0, but Aberdeen were holding out even with ten men until injury time in the first half saw Jame Forrest open the scoring. After that Aberdeen were always struggling and even lost the plot a bit which saw their manager, their assistant manager, and another player all being sent off as well. And of course we scored another couple of goals courtesy of an Odsonne Edouard penalty and the now standard Tom Rogic goal against Aberdeen.

I have a feeling that Aberdeen will be a bit more disciplined today. Or maybe they won’t given they’ll know it’s John “nothing to see here” Beaton that’s in charge of today’s game. A kick in the haw maws? No problem. Scraping your studs down someone’s leg? Play on.

The game I haven’t mentioned yet was our last visit to Pittodrie. That may well have had a 4-3 thrilling scoreline, but for large parts of this game it followed exactly the same pattern again. Celtic took the lead early through Scott Sinclair, but Aberdeen levelled from the penalty spot after Emilio Izaguirre had wiped out Niall McGinn. Aberdeen then frustrated us for an hour before the introduction of Edouard turned the game in the final fifteen minutes.

First, Edouard found Forrest who found Sinclair for a tap in. But then Aberdeen got a second penalty, this time for a dive by Graeme Shinnie. They weren’t level for long though, as Edouard found his way to a lovely chip over Joe Lewis after a bit of a defensive mixup. He then quickly turned provider again, setting up Sinclair’s hat trick. If we thought 4-2 was safe though, Aberdeen scored from a corner to give us a nervy finish.

Not exactly the last fifteen the previous seventy five had hinted at!

Will we get something similar today? I doubt it. Aberdeen are badly struggling with injuries right now. Shinnie is out from the midfield and they showed in the semi final they don’t have the same drive and dig in midfield without him there. Also missing from an attacking sense is McGinn, as well as Gary Mackay-Steven and even Conor McLennan who was taken off early in their game at Ibrox last week.

They’ll also be without their manager for the game, after he was given a one match ban following his sending off at Hampden in the semi final. I’m sure he’ll love being up in the crowd given he was sent off for reacting to the crowd. At least he’ll be with his own fans so the abuse he’ll hear will be directed at the Celtic fans instead this time.

On the other hand, our injury concerns all centre around Kieran Tierney. He’ll have an operation on a double hernia soon, likely after the Scottish Cup final, so I’d imagine his appearances before then will be few and far between. He didn’t play in the semi final so it remains to be seen if he’ll feature today. The other doubt was over Edouard, but although he didn’t train for a day this week he’s fit and ready for this match.

As is, apparently, Leigh Griffiths. I don’t know if we’ll see him, but given what I said about the number nine jersey in my blog after Stevie Chalmers passing this week I really wouldn’t be surprised now! You never know with these things!

Of course, there will be another minute’s applause today. Not only is this our first game since Stevie’s passing, but it is Aberdeen’s first home game since the passing of their former manager Billy McNeill. The fans will pay tribute to both before playing out what is hopefully a decent game of football and one that sees Celtic come out with not just the point that we need but preferably all three.

Krys (Twitter @krys1888)

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