CHRIS SUTTON insists Celtic will react to the “jolt” they received in Sunday’s Hampden defeat.
The Hoops had gone over 30 domestic games without a loss until their extra-time stumble in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side.
However, the Parkhead men are still on course for the Premiership title with a six-point advantage over their nearest challengers with only five games to go. They also possess a superior goal difference of 19.
Ange Postecoglou is preparing his squad for the trip to Dingwall on Sunday for the 2.15pm kick-off against Ross County and will know precisely what is expected of his team.
HAMPDEN SUMMIT…Callum McGregor talks to the players after their Scottish Cup exit on Sunday.
Van Bronckhorst’s Govan outfit will have played Motherwell at Fir Park 24 hours earlier after their game was rescheduled to help with their Europa League quest with the first leg of their semi-final due in Germany against RB Leipzig a week tonight.
Sutton is convinced the Hampden setback will not derail his old club, but will act as a spur over the next five crucial outings.
The one-time England international forward said: “I don’t think the Cup defeat will have an affect in any way whatsoever. In many ways it might give the Celtic team a bit of a jolt, it’s a reminder the league is not over.
“I never thought it was done. People have gone on about the six-point gap and the goal difference. I get that.
“But you look at the nature of the split and the fact Rangers are quite capable of going to Celtic Park and winning, because the teams are so evenly matched.
HIT AND MISS…Celtic were without the services of 13-goal Giorgis Giakoumakis at Hampden.
“There will be Celtic fans who thought the league was over, but after the game last week they will be worrying a little now.
“The run Celtic were on was incredible. I was more disappointed with the performance at Hampden. They lacked a bit of energy, which was surprising and Gio Giakoumakis was a huge miss.
“Celtic weren’t sharp enough to play through Rangers and Rangers deserved to beat them.”
Sutton, speaking on the Daily Record Sports Podcast, added: “Ross County’s home record is pretty good. Celtic are the last team to win up there back in December.
“It’s a difficult game. The pitch was horrific a month ago and we know Celtic like to play a passing game.
“We don’t know if Giakoumakis will be fit. I know Kyogo is back in, but Giakoumakis has physicality and brings a different dimension.
“In terms of getting the momentum back, if Celtic beat Ross County they will go in to the Rangers game knowing one last push and the league is won.
DINGWALL DELIGHT…Anthony Ralston is congratulated by Cameron Carter-Vickers after his winning goal against Ross County in December. David Turnbull is about to join in.
“On the flip side, any points dropped will leave the door open for Rangers.
“Celtic have to concentrate on the process and go back to what’s got them in to this position, being ruthless and super creative.
“Sunday was one of the only times this season where they lacked a bit of nous in the final third.
“We must not forget how far Celtic have come. Fans would have bitten the hand off to be six points behind at this stage, never mind six in front.
“There’s still a long way to go, but this weekend could be a step closer.”