I was pleased when the league fixtures were announced, and we learned Newco would start their season on Kilmarnock’s plastic pitch. Already four competitive fixtures into their season, Killie present a randomness of a challenge at home. For Newco’s sake the pitch is unlikely to be dry on Saturday.
Killie will have completed six competitive games when we face them at Rugby Park in the League Cup next month, while Celtic will have faced only Ross County and Aberdeen. That is a material gap in preparedness and surely the rain will have stopped by then, so the pitch could be bone dry and bumpy.
For seven years now Celtic have been imperious at Hampden, only once (after extra time) leaving without the win in 24 visits. They have what it takes to get the job done on the big stage. Cup competitions, therefore, are about the draws we get in the earlier rounds – five games a season across two competitions. It was a tough draw.
Preseason so far has been far from ideal, with players missing across central defence and at right back. Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Nawrocki, Johnston and Ralston is a concentration of missing talent that will soon start to bite.
Tomorrow’s game against Athletic Bilbao, our first at Celtic Park of the new season, takes on greater importance than it should. We are not as ready for the new season as I would like to be.