Repetition is the key to success, so said some guy (over and over, I presume). This Sunday, Celtic face St. Johnstone for the third time in 12 days, in an act of recurrence that even Bill Murray would get sick of. However, if Celtic’s recent record against the Saints is anything to go by then Brendan Rodgers will be asking for a match against Tommy Wright’s team every week.
In October, Celtic beat St Johnstone 6-0 at McDiarmid Park, sparking an excellent run during which the Hoops beat RB Leipzig in the Europa League and Hearts in the Scottish League Cup semi-final. They also scored 20 goals in four games. While this seemed to be a catalyst for the season to really get started, Brendan Rodgers’ side went on to lose two league games before the New Year.
The winter break seems to have revitalised the side, though, and they have taken full advantage of a helpful fixture list, which has seen Kilmarnock, Rangers, Hearts and Aberdeen face each other while Celtic constantly face St. Johnstone.
This is the cup, though, and the cup is always a different matter. Brendan Rodgers’ domestic cup record is literally immaculate but, regardless, the prospect of a do-or-die 90 minutes in the face of the Treble Treble is enough to – as Shakespeare said – put the shits right up you.
Consistency is so important as Celtic switch between three competitions and I expect the side to dispatch of St Johnstone comfortably. Maintaining the current winning run is also crucial ahead of the tie against Valencia if Celtic are to pull of any kind of result. An early exit from the cup would not do much for confidence ahead of facing those big scary Spanish boys.
Stats & Facts
- Celtic have won every domestic home game this season (P14, W14)
- St Johnstone have not scored against Celtic since August 2017.
- Celtic have won all 6 of their matches in 2019, scoring 16 and conceding 0.
- The last time St Johnstone won at Celtic Park, Mubarak Wakaso and Virgil van Dijk both featured for the Hoops. Oh, and the world wasn’t quite as much of a shitshow as it is right now.
Last 5 Meetings
Feb 2019 | St. Johnstone 0, Celtic 2 |Scottish Premiership
Jan 2019 | Celtic 2, St. Johnstone 0 | Scottish Premiership
Oct 2018 | St. Johnstone 0, Celtic 6 | Scottish Premiership
Sep 2018 | St. Johnstone 0, Celtic 1 | Scottish League Cup
Feb 2018 | Celtic 0, St. Johnstone 0 | Scottish Premiership
Settling upon a consistent lineup has been a difficult task for Celtic in recent times. Once again, injury dictates that changes must be made. With Kieran Tierney and Emilio Izaguirre picking up a knock, Celtic will most likely have to make do with Jonny Hayes at left-back – perhaps a blessing in disguise, given Emilio’s level has dropped to that of the wee quiet guy you play fives with.
While Filip Benkovic is still injured, Kristoffer Ajer returns from suspension and while likely partner Dedryck Boyata in central defence. It may be too soon for James Forrest and Olivier Ntcham to start after their respective injuries, so I expect the same midfield to continue with Timothy Weah wide of the front three. Odsonne Edouard will need some real game-time before Thursday’s match against Valencia, so I expect him to start.
Marvin Compper is unlikely to feature as Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway have yet to reach the barren planet upon which he is stranded.
Scott Bain’s excellent clean sheet record and impressive distribution should see him start every match for the foreseeable future, although I have a slight feeling that Craig Gordon may start this cup game. I’ve gone with my heart, though.
It should not be overstated what a great job Tommy Wright has done at St Johnstone. Taking a relatively small football club to 4th place three seasons in a row – albeit followed by complete European embarrassment – is no mean feat. Generally, he has achieved this by setting up his side to be aggressive and compact, however this season they have been a little easier on the eye.
There are some decent attacking options in their side, from pacey attacker and Celtic fanatic Michael O’Halloran to the talented Matty Kennedy. Ex-Rangers loanee Sean Goss is a technically good option in midfield and Tony Watt scored against Barcelona that time. Meanwhile, the Saints have a very consistent back four, with goalkeeper Zander Clark able to pull off points-winning saves.
Key Points To Watch
- Celtic Park: Celtic’s home record is nothing short of superb this season – they have played 21 games at Parkhead and only been denied victory on two occasions: by AEK Athens and Red Bull Salzburg. While away form has been patchy to say the least, the East End has lived up to its fortress-like reputation in recent times.
- Zander Clark: The St. Johnstone number 1 pulled off a number of good saves in the previous meeting, and is certainly a shot stopper that can cause Celtic some problems. While his distribution leaves much to be desired, he could be the catalyst for some frustrated groans from the Celtic Park faithful.
- Bayo the Bhoyo: Having been cruelly stripped of his debut during the week, we can surely expect to see Celtic’s new number 10 feature at some stage.
Celtic 3, St Johnstone 0
The original match poster is by Frankie Mitchell (@madebyfrankie). You can buy a print of this and all of Frankie’s other illustrations and drawings from her online shop – her work is also available on t-shirts, stickers and many other products.