Thank god the international break is over. Last time round, in what seemed like a lifetime ago, Celtic got the crucial victory over Kilmarnock to extend their lead at the top of the league to 4 points, with a game in hand.
It really was a top class strike from Tom Rogic to win the game, which was made even better later on in the day when Motherwell best Aberdeen. Many are already predicting Rogic’s goal is the one which we will look back to as the league clincher.
Celtic go into the next match against Hearts with no major fresh injury worries. It could have been a lot worse for Celtic in defence following the shooting challenge on Sviatchenko, however he came through with no concerns. Jozo Simunovic has been dealt another set back and will be out for the rest of the season now. Carlton Cole picked up an injury in training and won’t be available for selection.
Celtic are first to play this weekend in the early Saturday kick off and have the chance to open up a 7 point lead over Aberdeen, who don’t play until Sunday against Hamilton. It’s another chance to really put the pressure onto them.
PREDICTED XI With 6 clean sheets in the last 8 matches (in all competitions), it’s important to keep this defence as it is as much as possible. Mulgrew has came into the team of late and he has solidified the defence somewhat (although there were question marks against Kilmarnock). His experience is showing. He should continue instead of Boyata alongside Sviatchenko. The full back, as usual, will be Lustig and Tierney. Hats off to Tierney who became the youngest debutant for Scotland in 54 years.
The two holding midfielders shouldn’t alter here and it will be Brown and Bitton. Brown is really struggling for form since his return from injury, but I can’t see him being dropped anytime soon. Johansen could come in as he’s looked better when he’s played. He also scored for Norway during the international break, albeit a gifted goal. It’s hard to make a case for Bitton either.
The front three midfielders is where literally anyone could play. There’s that many options here. Rogic must be one of these players though. After scoring the winner against Kilmarnock, he then went on to score 3 goals for Australia in 2 different matches. He’s in form and has to start. I’ve gone with McGregor to continue his run in the team as well as he is offering the team a lot with his willingness to have the ball and his drive in the forward play. They should be joined by Patrick Roberts. You can see he’s got an abundance of talent and he’s not afraid to take players on. Full of pace and trickery, it’s time to get him a run of games in the league run in.
Finally, up front, it will be the main man Leigh Griffiths again. Put it this way, Deila has the choice of three strikers, the other two being Cole and Kazim-Richards. Neither of them have a chance of starting ahead of Griffiths. On early evidence, it’s difficult to see what either can really offer the team. Griffiths all day long and he loves a goal against Hearts.
Celtic on the other hand, are also one of the in form teams, having won 3 of their last 5, drawing the other 2. Their last defeat came against Aberdeen at the start of February.
In the last 5 head to head meetings in all competitions, Celtic have won 3 and drawn the other 2. The aggregate score being 11-3.
You have to go back to April 2012 to find the last time Hearts beat Celtic. 2-1 in the Scottish Cup semi final.
In the last 10 matches at Celtic Park, Celtic have won 9 of them, drawing the other. The draw came in a 0-0 earlier this season.
Although Hearts have beat Celtic in s couple of Cup matches in recent years, you have to go back to April 2007 when they last beat Celtic in the league at Celtic Park.
Celtic to score over 2.5 team goals at 11/10.
Griffiths to score 2 or more at 7/4.