Pre-Match with A Celtic State of Mind – Is a victory under the floodlights Academic?

RYAN HARLEY:

Hamilton will fancy their chances to get something out of this Wednesday’s game at Celtic Park. With most of those involved with the club – fans and staff alike – inevitably looking ahead to Sunday’s Betfred Cup final at Hampden, changes to Neil Lennon’s team selection may leave the Bhoys open to a shock result.

However, the sheer quality of the changes that Celtic are able to make at the moment means that even wholesale changes to the squad could result in a great performance. Players like Lewis Morgan – who hadn’t really been given much of a chance at Celtic until recently – have been in sparkling form recently, having grabbed recent opportunities with both hands. The front line has also benefitted in recent games from the inclusion of Mikey Johnston, who has returned from injury on a phenomenal run of form. Perhaps it’s still slightly too early for Johnston to start Sunday’s match, so an inclusion in Wednesday’s starting eleven is more than warranted. More established names can expect to make an appearance tomorrow as well, with Olivier Ntcham and Tom Rogic in contention for a space in midfield, with McGregor and Christie likely to be rested.

Overall, perhaps unsurprisingly, I’d expect the Hoops to run out comfortable winners. Despite the level of rotation we’re likely to seek, the team that are likely to start will be more than enough to cause Hamilton some serious trouble. With the league table so tight going into the congested festive period, and goal difference being so crucial, Celtic must look to punish Accies as much as they can. Therefore, I’m predicting a 4-0 win for Celtic, with Johnston, Ntcham, and Rogic on the scoresheet.

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DECLAN MCCONVILLE:

December will prove to be a tricky month for the Treble Treble winners with so many games on the horizon.

After a dominating performance on Sunday in Dingwall, Neil Lennon will want to utilise the squad which he has.

The match against Hamilton cannot be taken for granted after a very spirited performance in September which saw Celtic manage to win the game 1-0 with a goal from James Forrest.

The team I would go with tomorrow night would be:

Forster;

Frimpong, Bitton, Ajer, Taylor;

Brown, Ntcham;

Forrest, Rogic, Johnston;

Morgan.

Lewis Morgan has been terrific in the games against Rennes and Ross County and shouldn’t be dropped for this game. Mikey Johnston once again showed how much of a good player he can be on Sunday, and looks exceptionally sharp.

With it being so tight at the top of the SPFL, Celtic will want to bag a few goals against Hamilton.

I am going for Celtic to win 4-0 with Mikey Johnston to score.

ALAN MORRISON:

The recent seasonal cadence has seen Celtic’s December packed to the gills with fixtures.

In 2016/17, 9 league games were won and a draw achieved at Manchester City.

In 2017/18, there were reversals at home to Anderlecht and the unbeaten busting 0-4 at Hearts. There were also draws with Hibernian and The Rangers as the Rodger’s revolution stalled slightly.

Last season saw a League Cup win but defeats to Salzburg, Hibernian and The Rangers.

Getting tougher or the Rodger’s effect waning?

What is constant is midweek home games against lowly opposition. Celtic tend to win these, but not spectacularly.

This one brings 9th placed Hamilton Academical, 1 point off bottom and only 2 wins all SPFL season. However, away from home they have secured 4 draws from 7 ties including the last two. They are without a league win since 28th September against Livingston.

No team has attempted less shots. Their 86 is 22 less than Ross County. And with 37% accuracy they are not executing them well. Unless they get them on target. In which case 47% result in goals which is the best rate in the league! Celtic are next on 46% conversion of on target shots.

No team allows the opposition more of the ball – 60%. Whilst Celtic lead the league with an average 64% possession.

The Accies also lead the league in red cards (5) despite not leading in fouls conceded nor yellows.

Despite the small size of the club, they have somehow tried 26 players in the SPFL this season. But Gogic is one of a handful of outfield players to play every minute of every game. Youngster Smith is their brightest threat with 3 goals and 2 assists so far.

Celtic have yet to drop a point from a winning position. If they score first, expect a comfortable home win but I’m expecting it to be December-stuffy.

The regulation 2-0 with Jullien to find the net.

COLIN WATT:

Whilst most fans will have one eye on the League Cup final this Sunday, Neil Lennon will be hoping his players are still concentrating on the matters at hand and that means getting a vital three points at home, this Wednesday against Hamilton.

The games are coming thick and fast for the Hoops, with this game being their second of nine matches they have before the winter break and, with that many games coming up, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Lenny mix it up where possible and Wednesday’s game seems like that opportunity.

Expect to see Oli Ntcham coming back into the side, perhaps giving Callum McGregor some rest, whilst upfront it will be interesting to see who leads the line. Lewis Morgan has certainly impressed beyond most people’s expectations in his performances against Rennes and Ross County, however, will Lenny look to give Leigh Griffiths some game time, with Odsonne Edouard still 50/50 for Sunday?

The opposition is almost certain to line up with two banks of five in-front of goalkeeper, Luke Southwood, and Celtic will have to work to break down the wall. The returning Mikey Johnston could hold the key to unlocking the defence on Wednesday with his trickery and passing. His goals against Rennes and Ross County show the class of player he is developing into and if he can link up with Greg Taylor or Jeremie Frimpong tomorrow night, it could ring the alarm bells for the Accies.

As previously mentioned, three points is essential on Wednesday and, with Rangers travelling to Pittodrie, it could become even more vital if Rangers slip up, up north. I expect the game to be very one sided, but it may take a while to break down Hamilton’s defence, so patience is key. The class will eventually shine through and I predict Celtic to win by 4-0 with Mikey Johnston scoring anytime.

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