CHRIS SUTTON reckons Celtic will enjoy three for the road as they zero in on their third successive title when they take on Philippe Clement’s Ibrox side at a rocking Parkhead tomorrow afternoon.

The former Hoops goal hero believes Brendan Rodgers will celebrate his second coming by overcoming the Govan challenge to zero in on their twelfth crown in 13 years – IF Callum McGregor, Reo Hatate and Matt O’Riley rise to the occasion.

Sutton reckons the midfield trio hold the key to success and highlights the statistics that back up his claim.

The one-time England international forward said: “Celtic have been patchy this season, no question. But it is striking that McGregor, O’Riley and Hatate have barely started any games together.

FLAG HAPPY…Callum McGregor is ready for the title battle.

“If they have, they’ve not always been at full pelt due to returning from injury lay-offs.

“I can see that Celtic’s best midfield trio have started just six Premiership games together out of the 35 played this season.

“Rodgers’ team has won the lot. Against Livingston, Motherwell, Kilmarnock and Hearts last autumn and Dundee and Hearts again in the past fortnight.

“I’d argue the two displays against Hearts in that sequence were among the best of the season and it is obvious that Celtic are a different animal when these boys are working in unison.

“If the trio fire, the title will belong to Brendan Rodgers.”

Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “Rodgers will be licking his lips at the prospect of these three taking control of proceedings. McGregor’s fitness is massive. I have to say that he was looking off his best upon return from the achilles injury last month.

STROLL IN THE PARK…Matt O’Riley is the epitome of cool after his penalty-kick in the 3-3 draw at Ibrox.

“The normal stealth was missing. He looked leggy and not as crisp in his work as you associate with him. I could understand getting him on the park because, as an influence, no-one is bigger within the squad.

“He is the leader and his presence is important.

“But McGregor’s ability stands him out. He completely dominated the first Old Firm game of the season and did much the same in December. The mistake at Ibrox which led to Abdallah Sima’s goal in the 3-3 draw was down to rust and lack of sharpness, but he looked more like himself against Hearts.

“Much was made of the 60-yard trackback to win a tackle, but there were signs of the control back in his game.

“O’Riley looked magnificent. His performances leading up to the New Year were Player of the Year material.

“The interest from Atletico Madrid saw him drop off a little after the winter break, but not much. It was just compared to his high standards. But O’Riley looked every inch a class act against Hearts and it was as if having McGregor and Hatate beside him again freed him up.

“In those six games together, O’Riley has scored four goals and made a few more.”

REO GRAND…Hatate accepts the cheers from the Celtic fans after scoring the opener in the 3-0 win over St Mirren last month. 

Sutton added: “Hatate is just a fabulous talent. He’s been a massive miss for Celtic during his spells out injured. He keeps the ball so well, he can affect the tempo of a game and he can spot a killer pass as well as put the ball in the net.

“Durability is key. He flagged at Ibrox due to fitness and so did Celtic as he came off.

“Rodgers needs all departments working tomorrow. The defence has to be solid, Joe Hart be sound and the wide boys clinical when opportunities arise.

“However, midfield is where the match could be won and lost. Rangers need to stop Celtic playing out from the back and through them.

“I’m pretty certain that if a fully tuned-up McGregor, O’Riley and Hatate had been able to start together for even half of the Premiership matches so far, Celtic would have the title in the bag.

“It didn’t happen, so, as it stands, it is still on the line. But McGregor, O’Riley and Hatate have the opportunity to put it to bed now.”

A victory in front of 60,000 partisan fans in the east end of Glasgow will propel the champions to a six-point advantage with just two games to play – against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park in midweek and St Mirren at Parkhead a week tomorrow.

If the three amigos click against their city foes it will be party time in Paradise.

Click Here for Comments >

About Author