I’ve seen it suggested in several places that if Celtic’s unbeaten run is going to come to an end, then doing so after the magical 67 games away to a good opposition who happen to be managed by a former manager of ours would be as good a place to do it as any.
Okay, I can accept that from a certain perspective.
Think about it. The run will end at some point, we all accept that much. So if it’s going to end, who would you want to be the team that beats Celtic? I know who I don’t want it to be, that’s for sure!
But I have some major problems with this line of thinking. First and foremost, I’ve never, ever wanted Celtic not to win. What a ridiculous notion that is! So to be going into any match whatsoever with the idea that I’d like Celtic to actually lose – never mind not even drawing – is just something I cannot accept!
Another problem with it is that I want this run to last for as long as possible. 67 is already a magical number in Celtic history, I don’t need another thing to tick that box. I want 68, then 69, then 70, then 71… I want that number to be as big as possible.
Then there’s the team we face next, Hibernian. Yes, I love Neil Lennon as much as any Celtic fan, but Hibernian? We might be the two teams that play in green in Scotland, and when they play most other opposition in Scotland I’d usually prefer them to win, but that’s very little to do with Hibernian themselves! Chances are I just like the team they’re playing even less. Hibernian have no love for us, nor should they.
I mean, they still go on about how they were the first to wear the green and how we stole all their players back in 1888. We’ll gloss over how they got those players in the first place, but if you want to know then go and get Brendan Sweeney’s book on those first few years of Celtic. It’s packed full of stories from the very first days of Celtic, and actually it covers quite a bit about Hibernian back then too. It’s fascinating stuff.
But back to today’s match.
Of the 67 games we’ve been unbeaten domestically, Hibernian have accounted for two of them. The first nearly saw the run end in fact, but thankfully a Callum McGregor equaliser to make it 2-2 ensured it didn’t. That came after McGregor had initially given Celtic the lead, only for John McGinn to score twice and give every other team in Scotland the hope that the unbeaten run was coming to an end.
No such luck there, sorry!
The most recent match was the League Cup semi final at Hampden. Hibernian would no doubt have been disappointed about the way Mikael Lustig was allowed to score both of his goals, but not half as disappointed as we were when Hibernian were let back into the game courtesy of a dodgy penalty. Dedryck Boyata’s tackle was perfectly executed, yet Anthony Stokes was given the chance to score from the spot – which he duly did.
Moussa Dembele, coming off the bench, was on hand to restore the two goal lead but Hibernian once again reduced the deficit courtesy of a fine move that was finished off by Oliver Shaw. As Hibernian threw everything at Celtic to try and get the equaliser, they were finally caught out at the back and Dembele was able to put the game to bed and send Celtic through to the final where we would ultimately beat Motherwell.
It’s worth noting that those two goals were the only goals Celtic conceded on their way to winning the competition, and indeed having not conceded any when winning it last season they are only goals Celtic have conceded in the League Cup under Brendan Rodgers.
Nevertheless, that’s four goals in two games Hibernian have managed to score against Celtic. That’s a decent return, even if they have shipped six themselves in that period.
Since that defeat at Hampden, Hibernian have been in reasonable form for the most part. A win at home to city rivals Hearts just three days later was followed up by away wins at Motherwell and Kilmarnock, as well as a home win over Dundee. Defeat at home to St Johnstone in a game where Stokes equalised from the penalty spot in injury time only to still concede a winner even later into injury time would have been disappointing, as was the 1-1 draw at Hamilton a week later.
They got back to winning ways last week though with a 1-0 win away to Partick Thistle which saw Hibernian enter this weekend sitting in fourth place, a point behind the two teams immediately ahead of them.
No, that is not another reason to toss this game to Hibernian! If they want to beat Celtic, they’re going to have to earn it!
It’s been a while since we’ve been to Easter Road. It was in January 2014 that we last played there, and although a 4-0 win would seem pretty convincing it was anything but that.
Kris Commons opened the scoring in the first ten minutes, but it took until the final fifteen for Virgil van Dijk to score the second with a terrific free kick. In between times, Fraser Forster had a string of saves to keep his clean sheet record intact. Hibernian also felt they should have had a penalty for van Dijk clipping James Collins but fortunately for us that was turned down.
The final ten minutes saw Teemu Pukki score Celtic’s third before Commons finished things off from the penalty spot after Pukki had been barged over by Alan Maybury.
That was our first win at Easter Road for nearly two years though. The meeting earlier that season in October 2013 had finished level at 1-1, while the time before that saw Celtic lose 1-0 in December 2012 courtesy of an early Leigh Griffiths goal.
I’ll be far happier if Leigh gets an early goal this time!
The previous win in question was a 5-0 hammering in February 2012 just days after the news that Rangers had entered administration. So that was a fun day out!
Today’s game will no doubt be difficult, but hopefully Celtic are looking to bounce back from the midweek defeat to Anderlecht and ensure that the gap at the top of the table goes back up the seven points after those behind us closed up on Friday and Saturday.
I’ve no interest in seeing the unbeaten run come to an end. Fortunately, although I’ve seen it suggested otherwise, not by anyone I actually know!
Krys (Twitter @krys1888)