With one round of the Scottish Cup successfully negotiated, we now have the seemingly annual situation of playing the same team three times in quick succession to look forward to. Last season we faced Motherwell three times in the space of a week, this season it’s not quite so bad as we look at playing St Johnstone three times in ten days.
We do have a game against Hibernian thrown into the middle of that just for good measure though. Yes, the winter break is now behind us so it’s back to the weekend-midweek-weekend slog of never ending games again for us.
I know we all love Celtic and supposedly “just can’t get enough” but is is just me that is fed up cramming all these games into short spaces of time?
We restart our league campaign tonight with what should on paper be a relatively easy fixture. We’re at home, where we’ve won every domestic game so far this season, against the team currently occupying the playoff spot and only two points ahead of bottom place and automatic relegation.
St Mirren haven’t had a great return to the top flight. They lost Jack Ross in the summer, replaced him with Alan Stubbs, only to have him shipped out before they had even played us in the league. Oran Kearney took over and arguably their best result to date with him in charge is the goalless draw they picked up at home to Celtic.
We have had some awful results on the road, but this one was so bad that St Mirren looked more likely to score in the first half of that game than we did, Olivier Ntcham got himself sent off, and then for some reason St Mirren retreated and played for a draw. We barely looked like scoring all night, although we did legitimately have a goal chalked off for offside. Sadly that was the only thing of real note we did all game.
At one point on Saturday it looked like St Mirren were going to be one of the teams to suffer a cup shock. When you’re 2-0 down at half time to Alloa Athletic and you’ve been reduced to ten men in between those two goals, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it really isn’t your day. But credit to the Buddies, they got themselves right back into the game midway through the second half, and then two late goals meant they not only kept themselves in the cup but progressed to the next round.
Defeat to Alloa might have seen calls for another change of manager, possibly replacing Kearney with the man in the other dugout on Saturday – former Buddies captain Jim Goodwin. But an unlikely victory might just be what the Paisley side need to turn their season around.
As we know, they more than earned their draw at home to us earlier in the season. Despite that, very little will be expected of them tonight under the lights of Celtic Park. But the pressure is off, they’re on a high after Saturday’s result, and they know if they can get anything tonight it will be seen as a bonus. So expect them to sit in and see if they can nick anything on the break.
It won’t be easy for Celtic, and our own grass appears to be against us now. The diseased hybrid pitch that we now have is just another sign that things aren’t quite going to plan for us this season and won’t help the kind of football Brendan Rodgers wants us to play. Then again, it didn’t stop Dedryck Boyata threading a perfectly weighted pass through to Timothy Weah to score on his debut on Saturday, did it?
Our fixture list for January would seem to be fairly straight forward when you consider we have another struggling team in Hamilton to come on Saturday before we complete a run of home games with the first of the St Johnstone fixtures. With our perfect home record, we’ll be looking to maintain that to give ourselves momentum going into a far trickier February.
The disappointing thing is it looks like we’ll be doing it without Kieran Tierney who now won’t even train properly until February. Who knows when we might see him back playing then. Tom Rogic is still away with Australia as they continue to progress in the Asian Cup as well, but we did see the return of Nir Bitton at the weekend finally. With Odsonne Edouard back in training and the new faces of Weah and Oliver Burke giving us a few more attacking options, we do seem to be making a few changes.
Rodgers wants more though, he’s been very clear about that, so it would be nice if we could get the finger out in that regard. We’re running out of January and there is next season to plan for as well as the remainder of this season. Six month loan deals are all good and well for the short term, but we need some more longer term thinking in this transfer window too.
Clearly then there is work to be done both on and off the park. Get it done Celtic!
Krys (Twitter @krys1888)