CELTIC face 11 crucial games – seven away from Parkhead – which could define the season for Brendan Rodgers and his players.
The run will kick off at Hamilton Accies a week on Saturday and will end against Steven Gerrard’s Sevco Rangers at Ibrox on December 29.
In the midst of those fixtures is the Betfred League Cup Final against Aberdeen at Hampden on December 2 where Rodgers could pick up his seventh successive domestic trophy and continue steering the Hoops on course for a remarkable treble treble.
The seven-in-a-row champions went to the top of the Premiership on Sunday for the first time in this campaign following their scoreless stalemate at Livingston, leading Hearts on goal difference with a game in hand.
Former striker Simon Donnelly looked at the daunting list of games and said: “There are some great fixtures coming up. They’re absolutely mouthwatering and will certainly shape the season for both Celtic and Rangers.
“Celtic have the League Cup Final against Aberdeen and Rodgers’ team have traditionally kicked on in the past two years after winning that trophy.
THE LONE CELT…Odsonne Edouard is on a hot streak of form.
“The League Cup is always massive for everybody at the club. It’s another huge one for the players and they will want to retain their grip on all of the domestic silverware.
“If Celtic were to lose the Cup Final I don’t know if it would have a negative effect on them, but I think it would certainly give the rest of the league a huge lift.
“It would be interesting to see how the Celtic players react if they were to lose at Hampden.”
Donnelly also reckoned it was imperative Rodgers has a strong squad to work with as they pick their way through a soccer minefield on their way to the turn of the year.
Skipper Scott Brown, defender Jozo Simunovic, midfielder Olivier Ntcham and striker Leigh Griffiths have been missing in recent weeks while back-up anchorman Eboue Kouassi has been ruled out for the remainder of the campaign along with exciting Aussie talent Daniel Arzani.
Rodgers’ side face a difficult trip to face Derek McInnes’ side at Pittodrie on Boxing Day before bringing bringing down the curtain on an eventful 2018 with a trip across the Clyde to Govan.
Former Scotland international Donnelly believes the return of prolific hitman Griffiths is particularly important to take the weight off £9million man Odsonne Edouard who has been leading the line on his own since the injury setback to his team-mate and the transfer deadline day £19.7million sale of Moussa Dembele to Lyon.
KEY ROLE…Leigh Griffiths has an important part to play in the run-in to the turn of the year. Pics: Geo.
He added: “They have been operating with one fully-fit striker in Edouard and Rodgers will be wanting Griffiths to return to the first-team fold as quickly as possible.
“Edouard is on a real hot run of form. Griffiths is the top striker at the club when he is on song, but he needs to get his fitness levels back up to speed.
“Celtic are relying on Edouard a fair bit at the moment which is why Rodgers and the supporters will want to see Griffiths back on the pitch as soon as possible, especially ahead of the Aberdeen and Rangers games in late December.
“These two games are going to be vital to Celtic’s season because the talk now is can the club complete the treble-treble.
“The club, the manager and the players will inevitably play it down, but the bulk of that Celtic squad are used to winning.
“There will be a bigger challenge and threat posed to Rodgers’ team now than in the two years previous.
“The trips to Pittodrie and Ibrox will go a long way to seeing if we will have a Premiership title race on our hands.
“I always felt Celtic wouldn’t run away with the league this season, that it wouldn’t be a one-horse race. The way it’s going right now is great for Scottish football.
“It will be interesting to see how it all pans out and it is going to be a cracking five weeks of football.”
CELTIC’S CRUNCH ELEVEN
Sat, Nov 24, Premiership: Hamilton Accies v CELTIC
Thursday, Nov 29, Europa League: Rosenborg v CELTIC
Sunday, Dec 2, Betfred League Cup Final: CELTIC v Aberdeen
Wed, Dec 5, Premiership: Motherwell v CELTIC
Saturday, Dec 8, Premiership: CELTIC v Kilmarnock
Thursday, Dec 13, Europa League: CELTIC v RB Salzburg
Sun, Dec 16, Premiership: Hibs v CELTIC
Wed, Dec 19, Premiership: CELTIC v Motherwell
Sat, Dec 22, Premiership: CELTIC v Dundee
Wed, Dec 26, Premiership: Aberdeen v CELTIC
Sat, Dec 29, Premiership: Sevco Rangers v CELTIC