Pre-match with A Celtic State of Mind – Pittodrie in the Rain

ALAN MORRISON:

A trip to windy Aberdeen in a storm may illicit trepidation from Celtic supporters but the champions record at Pittodrie is stellar. 3rd February 2016 was the last home win and since then 8 matches, 6 wins have seen Celtic dominate their nearest challengers in the 8-in-a-row years. Overall, Celtic have been undefeated 112 times in 161 ties at Pittodrie.

The Dons are on the back of their first goals of 2020 in a 3-1 win at relegation-haunted Hamilton Academical. Prior to that there had been 4 scoreless ties with murmurs of discontent regarding McInnes’ long reign.

Cosgrove was dropped for Main in the Hamilton game and scored. Although Cosgrove has 10 goals, statistically the homes side’s most potent threat remains McGinn. With 5 goals and 8 assists in the SPFL, he averages a scoring contribution of 0.71 per 90m. This lack of creativity outwith their aging talisman speaks volumes.

33 league goals are behind Livingston and Motherwell and is less than half the champions’ 77. Celtic have double the shots of the Dons (498 – 240) and roughly the same ratio on target (182 – 98). Aberdeen fail to score in 35% of league games.

Defensively, Aberdeen are third best in the league with 29, which is still 1.12 per game. 5 shipped to The Rangers and 4 against Celtic suggests they struggle against the better attackers. Celtic’s defensive wall, Forster, boasts the best shot conversion against in the league at 10%. Only 26% of on-target shots beat the Englishman. Compatriot Lewis is not far behind on 29%.

Celtic are clearly in terrific form with an increasingly injury-free squad providing real quality off the bench to turn sticky ties. And the champions are the great entertainers – with 92 goals in their matches, this beats the next best by 16. The Hoops remain the only side not to relinquish a league lead. The Dons best bet is scoring first. They have sacrificed just 2 draws from wining positions.

Celtic’s advantage is the bench options whilst the Dons struggle to break down good sides. Celtic are increasingly getting their business done by midway through the second-half. An early Celtic goal should see a comfortable 3-0 win with Edouard continuing his fine form with another goal.

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ANDREW RAFFERTY:

Celtic’s charge towards the fabled 9-in-a-row, is gathering momentum. A defeat to our nearest rivals before Christmas, followed by a winter sandbox break has clearly galvanized minds and bodies. Players with question marks, for different reasons, have all stood out since the break- think Ntcham, Taylor and Griffiths among others. Changes to formations and squad depth have played their part handsomely and a series of seemingly tough matches have been dealt with, with relative ease.

Played 8 Won 8 is the form of champions. It’s form that the Southside team would dearly love to replicate.

And so to Sunday and our next engagement. Aberdeen away at 12pm. Fair play to all those fans travelling at god-knows what o’clock to make it up the road in time. I’m sure you’ll have fun heading up and down.

Aberdeen away always feels like it should be tricky, but we need to go back to 2015/16 to see when we last dropped points in Pittodrie (although the Dons have won a couple of times at Parkhead in between). Their form since the winter break has been patchy at best, with goals hard to find.

A 3-1 win at home to Hamilton on Wednesday may have brought a little confidence back to the side, but that’s their first win and goal(s) since the stuffy 1-0 win against Dumbarton in the Cup on 18 January. Aberdeen are clearly a team toiling to find their mojo and risk slipping down the table if they don’t start picking up points. I don’t expect this to happen tomorrow however.

3-1 to Celtic.

KEVIN GRAHAM:

We had a few hours of fun after Wednesday night. The final whistle was greeted by the chants of, “Champions again,” and we all joined in. We were filled with adrenaline, excitement and the sheer joy of watching our team go 10 points clear.

The blustery light of day and a look at the fixture list and the number of tough tests we have to tick off brings back the sense of reality. We have breathing space and we have it in a room that is brightly lit with soft furnishings. We are comfortable but cannot be complacent. We can’t count the championship medals yet and we would be foolish to do so.

There is still an element of unknown about this side. Though 17 wins out of 18 ought to dispell them, it hasn’t. Our record at Aberdeen recently should make us feel confident going into the game. It doesn’t, as records don’t win games. We need to play this game as if we are level on points. We need to focus. We need to turn up and do our job. Do that, then we should be still at least 10 points clear come Monday morning. We can’t ask for much more.

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