We go into tomorrow’s top of the table clash in better form than we were at the start of the month. Wins over Livingston and Dundee give Celtic a platform to build on. These games coincided with a consistency of selection in central midfield; Paulo Bernardo filled the endlessly changed slot in central midfield and rewarded his manager with the opening goal on Tuesday. I doubt it is a coincidence that players looked like they knew what they were doing after a period of inconsistent form and selection.
It surprised me that Daizen Maeda has not spent more time on the left since his return from injury. He is clearly more suited to that wing, and he is particularly effective at pinning back Newco, who prefer attacking on their right. How we support Greg Taylor on the left will be crucial to the result.
Both teams have injury concerns over their first-choice central defenders: Cameron Carter-Vickers’ persistent tight hamstring forced his early retirement on Tuesday, while Connor Goldson went off early last weekend with a groin strain. I expect both players to start the game, even if they cannot complete the 90 minutes.
Newco will arrive tomorrow with a similar tale of injury woe that Celtic went to Ibrox with in September. We finished that game with a defence of Ralston, Lagerbielke, Scales and Bernabei, all of whom had enough ability to successfully defend their one goal lead. Celtic were able to boss the game against a weaker opponent. The fundamentals of the teams have not shifted away from Celtic in the intervening period.
We can expect lots of running and plenty of fight from Newco, they may also benefit from generous refereeing. We need to match them on the first two counts. This will be a battle and my biggest concern is that an arbitrary red card flips the scales in favour of the visitors. Celtic have to compete but give the referee no opportunity to step into the limelight.
Kyogo terrifies Newco. He has started 11 games against them, winning seven and losing only twice: his first game at Ibrox, when he played on the wing, and in extra-time at Hampden, when we were kicked off the park. I doubt anyone across the nine year history of this fixture has a comparable record. Expect him to see the result over the line tomorrow.