Footballers often play two games a week but their peak fitness levels are achieved when the play once a week. More often than that and the muscles don’t recover quickly enough. Top players’ muscles are finely tuned to deliver 90 minutes of exertion. To reach this peak, they NEED games as well as training. It appears to be beyond the ken of sports scientists to create a training routine which matches actual matches.
Apart from a 25 minute run-out against Hearts two weeks ago, newco’s players will not have played a football game in 22 days when they line-up against the champions on Sunday. If the boot was on the other foot, I would be concerned.
Celtic watchers will note that they score more goals late in games than early. Ronny’s team try to win the battle for territory, the ball and energy before running over the top of opponents. Whatever happens in the opening 20 minutes on Sunday I would expect Celtic to be far more effective in the final 20 minutes of the game, when their superiority will be most effective. There’s a chance newco will crumble early on, but I don’t expect many chances at either end until later in the first half.
While we all know how Celtic will play, it’s harder to figure out how Kenny McDowell will line-up tactically. If he was Ross County manager he would defend his 18 yard line for 90 minutes and hope for a breakaway, but I’m not sure that’s a viable strategy for Sunday. Lose an early goal and he would be caught between damage limitation and attempting to get back into the game. It could get very messy.
My hunch is that he’ll play a conventional 4-5-1 and attempt to find space out wide behind Celtic’s full-backs for Kenny Miller to run into. The full-backs will play forward, there will be space, we’ve just got to be faster than the 35-year-old ex-Celt now plying his trade in the lower leagues.
Despite their form against Hibs and Hearts this season, newco have an excellent record against Premiership competition in the cups. Three wins, against Inverness (only one point behind Aberdeen on same games played), St Johnstone and Kilmarnock, without a goal conceded, is a measure of what they are capable of, when they put their minds to it.
The wins against Kilmarnock and Inverness are particularly noteworthy, as both Premiership clubs enjoyed the majority of possession, but were frustrated in attack and hit with sucker-punches. This is what McDowell will seek to do at Hampden.
Ronny, get the job done. Very, very, very, thoroughly.
A reminder for North American readers that the Annual Celtic Supporter’s Féile is on in Philadelphia this weekend. The events include live music each day, the US premier of The Asterisk Years, with a Q&A with Paul Larkin and Graham Wilson of Beyond the Waves podcast, as well as live coverage the semi-final. You can find out more, including how to book, here.
Have you booked for the CQN11 Str Patrick’s Dinner on Friday, 13 March? We’re hoping to raise enough money to build Mary’s Meals a school kitchen in Malawi. Mary’s meals emailed an hour ago with a report on one of the kitchens we built last year, in Kholoni, where they are now feeding 1245 children each day, a considerable increase in the roll-call since the availability of kitchen facilities, see the photo above.
Email me for tickets, [email protected] (to the Dinner, not Malawi).