Playing Catch-Up

With another domestic cup final to look forward to, attention returns to the league where we once again find ourselves sitting in third place. While we were preparing for our semi final against Hearts, Kilmarnock were drawing at home with Hamilton and are now a point ahead of us having played a game more.

Don’t worry, we’ll catch up soon enough. They’ve crammed as many games as possible into December again this year. Although we’ll have another game to arrange in the new year now we’re in the League Cup final and there are literally no free midweeks left for us.

Kilmarnock are one point ahead of us, with Hearts a further five ahead because they got to play their weekend match a few days earlier while we were in Leipzig. So both teams ahead of us have played a game more.

Hearts extra game last midweek saw them beat Dundee 3-0, a result that had quickly followed Dundee’s 4-0 thumping at the hands of Livingston. It’s not been the greatest of starts for new manager Jim McIntyre, as he replaced the awful Neil McCann in an effort to lift the Dens Park team off the foot of the table.

Seems a bit harsh that he has a baptism of fire against three of the top four teams in the league. Couldn’t they have left McCann in charge just a little while longer and complete his humiliation?

McIntyre has had another week to work with his players, and I’m sure he’ll be hoping the defending improves. Against Livingston they conceded all four goals to set pieces, while Hearts were already in lead after just a couple of minutes and the second came before quarter of an hour had passed.

It may need Dundee to get to the January transfer window before McIntyre can put his stamp on the team properly, but in the meantime there’s still another two months to negotiate and quite a few games to come in that time. With St Mirren and Motherwell, the two teams immediately above Dundee in the table, facing each other this midweek they might hope to get something from a home game against Celtic.

Then again, we’re starting to find our form. Thirteen goals in our last three domestic games, two clean sheets in that time against both of the Edinburgh teams who were the top two in the league until recently… we’re starting to look good.

It’s just a shame we keep picking up injuries.

Eboue Kouassi and Olivier Ntcham both went off during the semi final, and they join Leigh Griffiths, Jozo Simunovic, Scott Brown and Nir Bitton – remember him – on the sidelines. Still, it wasn’t all bad news as Kristoffer Ajer’s name on the teamsheet on Sunday was a welcome surprise.

We do seem to be lacking a bit in midfield now though. Callum McGregor does a decent job filling in as the holding midfielder, while Ryan Christie came on during Sunday’s match to devastating effect. He’ll be hoping to take his chance now and stake a claim to a regular start, and if he can play as well as he did on Sunday then who could argue with that.

Still, with so many games coming in such a short space of time, our squad is looking rather stretched. It’s not a good position to be in, and so you might expect games like tonight’s to be a time when we see some more fringe players.

Who do we have that we can call on though? Does Scott Allan get a call from the wilderness? Could we see Daniel Arzani make his debut for Celtic tonight? Do we have any other strikers anywhere that could give Odsonne Edouard a rest? What right back will we play this time? Could it be Anthony Ralston whom I’m not sure has been seen in a Celtic jersey since he was noising up Neymar.

I’d also be wary of making too many changes. As I said earlier, we have two teams ahead of us that we want to catch, and they both have tricky matches tonight too. Kilmarnock go to the other League Cup semi final losers, while Hearts have an Edinburgh derby to contend with. If we can beat Dundee tonight, there’s a good chance we’ll be within one game of top spot.

And with it, the chance to knock them off on Saturday. But there’s a lot of football to play before we get to that point.

On paper, Dundee should be three points for us without too much fuss. But football isn’t played on paper, and we’ve already seen Celtic struggle against teams at that end of the table. We failed to score against St Mirren, still the only point that Oran Kearney has earned as manager in Paisley, we narrowly beat Hamilton at home, and we haven’t played Motherwell yet because that’s the rearranged game from the past weekend that we’ll face in December.

It’s a bit of a dilemma for Brendan Rodgers. We’ve already seen the problem of injuries and we’re already stretch the squad. Can we stretch it further without disrupting our winning run? After all, we haven’t won four league games on the bounce since the invincible treble season. We didn’t manage it at all last season, and here we are with the chance to do it now.

I guess that’s why Brendan Rodgers is manager of Celtic and I’m a blogger on Hail Hail Media!

Krys (Twitter @krys1888)

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