FORMER Celtic goal hero Charlie Nicholas has warned Ange Postecoglou to be wary of capital punishment when they take on Hearts twice in four days.
The Greek-Australian gaffer’s hopes of a spectacular treble in only his second season at the club could depend on results against the Edinburgh club.
The champions take on Robbie Neilson’s side at Parkhead tomorrow night as they continue their quest for a second consecutive title.
There is a change of competition and venue on Saturday when the Hoops travel to Tynecastle for an intriguing Scottish Cup quarter-final with the kick-off due at 12.15pm.
ONE DOWN AND TWO TO GO…it’s the Celtic singalong featuring Sead Haksabanovic, Oh Hyeon-gyu, Filipe Jota, Greg Taylor ad Callum McGregor after the League Cup triumph.
The League Cup has returned to Celtic Park for a second year in succession following the 2-1 triumph over Michael Beale’s Ibrox outfit at Hampden nine days ago.
Postecoglou’s men, fresh from a 5-1 triumph over St Mirren in Paisley where they restored their nine-point advantage at the league summit, step onto soccer’s silverware tightrope in Glasgow where they won the first encounter of the clubs 2-0 on August 21.
Kyogo Furuhashi opened the scoring early on that occasion and Giorgos Giakoumakis claimed the second late in a game where the visitors had two players – Alex Cochrane and Toby Sibbick – dismissed after picking up second yellow cards in a bad-tempered climax.
As well as the Greek striker, the Hops also had Josip Juranovic and Moritz Jenz in the team that afternoon and they, too, are no longer at the club.
The return at Tynecastle on October 21 will be remembered as the day the champions were introduced to VAR in a controversial confrontation that saw Greg Taylor net the winner in a 4-3 success.
We can only hope there is no requirement of new technology in the latest chapter of the no-holds-barred duels tomorrow night.
TOP OF THE PILE…Kyogo Furuhashi, who scored the opener against Hearts in August, is given a lift by Matt O’Riley with Filipe Jota about to join in the celebrations.
But former fans’ favourite Nicholas can see red signs flashing for the Hoops.
The one-time Scotland international forward said: “I think tackling Hearts this weekend is the biggest threat to Celtic’s treble hopes. Ange Postecoglou’s side already have the League Cup in the cabinet and I believe the league is already done and dusted.
“Even if Celtic were to lose at home tomorrow, I still can’t see Rangers catching them. But the Scottish Cup-tie is the most intriguing of them all.
“If Celtic can get through then they will see the treble in their sights although as long as Rangers remain in the competition then they will also fancy their chances of going all the way.
“Ange will be desperate to join the list of Celtic managers who have lifted a treble especially as he just missed out on it last season.
“You feel that Hearts are the type of team who, on occasion, can pull off a big result against Celtic or Rangers. The next two games are massive in the league and more so in the Cup.”
MATCHWINNER…Greg Taylor slides in to turn the points-clincher past Hearts keeper Craig Gordon in the seven-goal thriller at Tynecastle in October. Michael Smith is too late to intervene.
Nicholas, as reported in the Daily Record, added: “I am not being disrespectful to Rangers here because the Old Firm games look after themselves, but the fact they face Hearts in the Cup makes it their biggest hurdle to date.
“I know Celtic beat St Mirren, but you could see there was still a vulnerability there especially in the first-half before Stephen Robinson’s side went down to 10 men.
“You saw that with Big Ange with his substitutions. St Mirren proved a point that you can get at Celtic. I am expecting something similar against Hearts who I expect to go full out.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they were to nick a point. I could see the Cup-tie going to extra-time and Celtic just squeezing through.”