On the Road to Perth and Another Three Points

Celtic make the journey across the A9 on Sunday to face 8th placed St. Johnstone at McDiarmid Park safe in the knowledge that a victory in Perth will restore the Hoops 9-point advantage at the top of the table.

A 95th minute winner from Giorgos Giakoumakis sealed the three points for Celtic on their last visit to Perth in October.  While we’d settle for a similar outcome on Sunday, the current form of both sides suggests that Celtic go into the fixture as more comfortable favourites.

St. Johnstone’s midweek win at Motherwell put to an end a seven-game losing streak for Callum Davidson’s men. A run of form that began with a 4-1 defeat at Celtic Park on Christmas Eve when doubles from Hatate and Kyogo had the game wrapped up before the hour mark.

Despite being an awkward venue to visit – at least in my mind – Celtic are unbeaten in their last 12 games at McDiarmid Park.  All going well, Sunday will prove to be thirteenth time unlucky for the home side.


While much is rightly made of Celtic’s lethal attack, which is on course to set a new league goal scoring record for a single season, the backline must also come in for its fair share of credit as well.

Not only was Celtic’s swatting aside of Livingston on Wednesday evening the Hoops 6th straight win in all competition, it was also their 6th consecutive clean sheet.

The return of preferred centre-back pairing Cameron Carter-Vickers and Carl Starfelt has brought with it renewed steel and stability at the back, along with providing a platform that allows Celtic to quickly transition from defence to attack.

The American’s dominance in the air has been perfectly complimented by the Swede’s ability to read the game and position himself in the right place at the right time to prevent attacks from developing.

On the flip side, both Carter-Vickers and Starfelt have proven themselves to be adept on the ball.  Their ability to move the ball quickly between the lines to the advanced midfielders or switching of play to the opposite wingers has been a key feature in Postecoglou’s Celtic and attacking development.

As the saying goes, defence is the best form of attack and with Carter-Vickers and Starfelt assisted by the marauding Taylor on the left, Celtic’s defence has laid the foundations for a campaign that currently see’s the Hoops sitting pretty at the top of the table with a League Cup final to look forward to.


While the defence now largely picks itself, the return to form in midweek of Matt O’Riley poses a dilemma over who takes the +1 position next to McGregor and Hatate in the first choice starting midfield.

Aaron Mooy has been in excellent form since returning from the World Cup, contributing 5 goals and 2 assists in 11 appearances.  The Australian was won over this early season critics with a series of commanding performances and achieved the ultimate accolade of having his own song.

Perhaps not the most mobile of the midfield options, Mooy has impressed with his range of passing, ability to dictate the tempo, and positional awareness that more than makes up for any lack of natural pace.

Matt O’Riley’s season has gone in the opposite direction.  After a strong start the Danish U-21 International has suffered a dip in form post World Cup that resulted in him falling out of the starting line up on a regular basis.

The 22-year-old’s case does have the mitigating circumstance of having played a large chunk of the season in a deeper role due to Callum McGregor’s injury, and his return to form in midweek also brought added athleticism and dynamism to the team.

The dilemma and headache over who to start rests with Ange, who, knowing him, may well opt for the third option of David Turnbull and the goal threat that he possesses.


On Friday’s podcast Declan McConville mused over the midfield dilemma, opting for Mooy over O’Riley.

Dan Stevenson flirted with the prospect of Sead Hakšabanović getting some much needed minutes before deciding that Jota (and his mullet) is undroppable in his current form.

One thing that Declan, Dan, and Paul all agreed on is that recent inductee into the 400 club, Callum McGregor, is firmly on course to secure his place as a club icon and fully deserving of being the first name on the team sheet.

As is now the norm, I’ve put together my favoured team for the team with little in the way of surprises – rather boringly, I’m keeping my midweek eleven for this game too.


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