Pre-match with A Celtic State of Mind – Back to the quest for nine

ALAN MORRISON:

The champions and league leaders visit eighth-placed Ross County on Sunday with contentment after nine wins on the spin. The hosts will again see the Dingwall ground filled with more people than live in the town.

The newly-promoted Staggies have attained mid-table respectability, but in reality, are only 3 points off bottom. They have only lost 6 of 14 matches but a -14 goal difference and league-leading 30 conceded hint at frailties.

It is often the case, however, that when a team receives a thrashing off an opponent, professional pride dictates they pull all stops to avoid a repeat. Celtic’s 6-0 victory in October suggests a more stuffy approach from the hosts this time.

The 6-0 was no fluke. Celtic had 17 of 29 shot on target and racked up an xG of 5.809. Laidlaw made 12 saves, but the goals conceded over the season have resulted in him now giving way for Baxter. Only St Johnstone have a worse shot conversion rate against than their 16%.

The Highlanders struggle against the better teams. 6 goals have been lost in two ties with Aberdeen and 4 against The Rangers. Other than the ‘keeper change, it isn’t a big squad and they will make do with the same defence that has got them this far.

The recently established Ewan Henderson will not play against his parent club and Ross County will rely on a combination of McKay, Stewart and Graham for threat. None exceed 0.59 goals and assist per 90m.

There is some resilience to the Staggies with 4 matches in the SPFL where losing positions have resulted in points.

But overall, with goals freely flowing in both sides’ matches, I’d expect Celtic to ease in 3-0. Now Christie has ended his mini drought, back him for another on Sunday.

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KEVIN O’ROURKE:

After a convincing win mid-week to secure top stop in a European group for the first time, it’s on to league action with a long trip north to visit Ross County in Dingwall.

Having won 6-0 at Celtic Park in the previous meeting back in October, and on a run of 9 consecutive wins, we will be full of confidence heading up north.

There may been some changes from the team in midweek, Frimpong could come back in at right-back for Bauer, Edouard may be rested to nurse an injury which kept him out of the Rennes game, and Griffiths may get the nod up top.

County are currently eighth in the table, their last league win coming away to Motherwell back in September.

With three losses and two draws in their last five games, County will be after a much-needed victory, but it won’t come in this game.

Even with the possibility of changes in the line up, we should come away will all three points with Christie scoring in a 3-0 win.

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