How will Celtic bounce back in time for Ibrox clash?

Celtic will look to bounce back from their Viaplay Cup second round exit to Kilmarnock last weekend when they welcome the visit of St Johnstone to Celtic Park on Saturday. With fans underwhelmed by the season so far and embarrassed by the second round loss to Killie, there will be an extra onus on the Bhoys today to go out and make a statement against the Saints.

Brendan Rodgers will be encouraged by the fact that he has never lost against St Johnstone in 12 games, with the boss boasting 12 wins and 2 draws against the Perth side. Rodgers has also kept 7 straight clean sheets against the Saints and he will be eager to maintain that record as he looks to restore some much needed confidence and momentum to his squad.

For the first time ever though, Brendan Rodgers will be managing against Steven McLean who took charge of the Saints on a permanent basis after managing 5 games in an interim role towards the end of last season. The former Rangers and Hearts striker took over from Callum Davidson departed the club and has overseen a tough start to the new campaign.

St Johnstone exited the Viaplay Cup in the group stages after some humbling defeats to League 2 Stenhousemuir and Championship Ayr United. The most embarrassing result of the group stage campaign however would come at MacDiarmid Park as newly promoted League One side Stirling Albion would beat the Saints 4-0.

The League campaign hasn’t been any more encouraging as St Johnstone sit bottom of the table after 2 games with defeats at home to Hearts and away in Dingwall against Ross County. The poor start to the season sees St Johnstone as the 2nd favourite to get relegated, with only newly promoted Dundee having higher odds.

Celtic have been facing what you might call an injury crisis with a number of key first-team players missing from action, to the extent that Brendan Rodgers had to bring a piece of paper with him to his press conference to keep track of all of the injuries the club currently has.

Cameron Carter-Vickers, Stephen Welsh and Maik Nawrocki will all be missing from action for the next two months at least leaving just Gustaf Lagerbielke, Liam Scales and Tomoki Iwata as the club’s options to play at centre-back.

There will be a lot of pressure on new man Gustaf Lagerbielke to step up in the absence of some key players, but he will have Canadian right-back Alistair Johnston alongside him in the Celtic backline as Johnston was back in training last Friday and will be fit to play tomorrow’s fixture. Getting some minutes in the Canadian internationalist’s legs ahead of next weekend’s derby will be key for Brendan Rodgers.

Rodgers also announced that Oh Hyeon-Gyu will be back in training next week with Reo Hatate and Yuki Kobayashi returning to training following the international break.

This game perhaps comes at the perfect time for Brendan Rodgers as he looks to get the fans back on side as well as easing any pressure on the players shoulders, and a massive, dominant display against St Johnstone at Celtic Park would most certainly put him on his way to doing so.


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