Hangover or Backlash?
Fresh from their Euro game against four times European Champions Ajax Amsterdam, Celtic travel to the Highlands on Sunday in a 12:15 kick off to take on Inverness who have just returned from Buckie, the former Highland League champions. Yes, that's the difference a few million pounds can make to your lifestyle.
Inverness could face either a Euro hangover or Backlash after a weakened Celtic lost out against Ajax on Thursday night in Glasgow whilst Inverness went to Buckie with a fairly strong squad of recovering casualties to help strengthen their limbs as the fixture list toughens up for the Xmas period.
It was a worthwhile exercise for Yogi's men with Ryan Esson, David Raven, Nat Wedderburn, Richie Foran, Ross Draper, Gary Warren, Andrea Mutombo, Tobi Sho-Silva all stretching their legs against the Highland League side. Inverness ran out 6-0 winners with Mutombo notching a hat-trick and Tobi scoring a brace. The opposition might not be a household name in European football, but in terms of getting these players some match practice it was invaluable, and the added bonus of scoring a few goals will boost the confidence of the shot shy Inverness strikers.
Our last Premiership game saw us lose yet another late goal as Partick Thistle took all three points with a 2-1 win at Firhill. Miles Storey had scored an early goal but Kris Doolan equalised before the break. Ryan Stevenson fluked a cross into the net to leave us pointless, and in doing so it undid the good work we carried out at Motherwell in the previous game and left us hovering just above the relegation battle.
Celtic's last game was a disappointing goalless home draw with Kilmarnock. That broke a five game winning run where they had scored fifteen goals in the process; one less than we have scored all season.
The clubs met at Parkhead in mid August when Celtic raced into a 4-0 lead over an understrength Inverness. However as Celtic eased their way to full time, Inverness scored two counters through Ryan Christie and Dani Lopez to give us a more flattering result. We are still underpowered but slowly getting players back on the park and match sharpness will benefit all of our returnees. I would suspect that almost half of that team will not start today. Celtic can call on virtually the full side that won them the points that day.
Current form would suggest that Celtic will be massive favourites to win this game and the bookies agree at 1/4 for an away win. You can get 12/1 if you fancy Inverness to win and the draw comes in around 9/2. Your best chance of winning back some dosh would be to put something on Miles Storey to open the scoring (14/1). Miles has notched five of our sixteen Premiership goals. Tobi Sho-Silva could be the surprise packet here though and you can get 18/1 on him scoring first. Celtic have won 11 of their 15 league games this season with 3 draws and a solitary defeat to Aberdeen in the middle of September. We, on the other hand, have only 4 wins. For all the noise about Celtic having a poor defence, they are still the stingiest back line in the division having only conceded 11 goals. However, the league table doesn't lie and that shows that we languish in eighth place, only three points above second bottom.
Inverness have dealt positively with the unsavoury incident in the Dani Lopez sending off and have disciplined the player internally on top of the two match ban he received from the SFA. Dani has been fined for his indiscretion which has lost him some respect across the board. The player has unreservedly apologised for the uncharacteristic incident and would now like to focus on getting back on track. On top of the Lopez ban, Inverness will be without Jason Roberts, Aaron Doran and Dean Brill, along with Ryan Christie who has gone to Parkhead for some rehab. The rest of the crocks all came through the game against Buckie unscathed and could be in contention for a place in the squad on Sunday.
Celtic midfielder and captain Scott Brown will miss this one and possibly the next two or three months of football with a knee problem following the Kilmarnock game. He twisted his knee at the end of the game and has suffered outside ligament damage. That's fair enough considering the way he throws himself into some of these tackles and the damage he has caused to others. He looks better in his jimjams anyway. Kris Commons also missed the tie against the Dutch side and faces a late assessment to check on his fitness. Nir Bitton and Stefan Johansen were banned for the Euro game but should return with Scott Allan and Kieran Tierney likely to make room for them.
tm4tj Prediction:- Not a game I look forward to as the Celtic entourage comes North looking to sweep all before them. In truth this game should be a total mismatch as Celtic come off the back of yet another Euro failure and we struggle to get any consistency with our troubled squad. Six points clear at the top, Celtic should be strong enough to see us off without too much bother, but we are at our best when the chips are down. Good news for us is the return of some more of our injured players and the game at Buckie will have benefited the likes of Warren, Draper and Foran in their journey back to full fitness. With Mutombo and Sho-Silva scoring as well, they could help ease the burden on Miles Storey's young shoulders and gives us more depth to our squad. Celtic showed against Ajax that one or two of their newer players still have a lot to learn, Scott Allan in particular will remember his input for quite some time, as will Callum McGregor, but for different reasons. You can't replace the experience of Scott Brown and Kris Commons with kids and expect it to work immediately. With that in mind, we could be thrown a lifeline. I would bite your hand off for a point out of this game, but I won't be holding my breath.