The nine-point lead we established over three months ago felt decisive. Newco must have felt so too as they promptly sacked their manager. It is a credit to both sides that the only points either have dropped since were to each other, they both reached the League Cup Final and are still in the Scottish Cup.
That self-satisfied feeling the top two in the table have is justified but it will soon shatter. Ange and Michael Beale know the League Cup Final will be a major test of their credentials. The date has loomed large in the calendar for weeks, so much so it will inevitably impact preparations for this weekend’s league games.
Ange has a decision to make regarding the fitness of Kyogo. The player lasted 30 seconds against Newco in May before the same shoulder injury brought the earliest of retirements, costing Celtic their best chance of a win. The manager is entitled to look to the rest of his squad to get the work done on Saturday, giving his top performer every chance of being ready for Hampden.
Form says we will beat Aberdeen and Newco will win at Livingston, but I’ve seen these ‘small’ games before a ‘big’ game go wrong too often. There is a real chance the gap will deviate from 9 points before the cup final.
We want to arrive at Hampden without an ounce of fragility. Open strongly against Aberdeen, score and pile the pressure on at the game taking place at the same time across in West Lothian. Even if it means playing our Japanese superstar.