Dundee v Celtic (SPFL Premiership)
Wednesday, 31 October
Dens Park, Dundee
Celtic are in a form so good it’s scary, and they travel to Dundee on Halloween night to meet a team in a ghastly state.
The Hoops are rounding into top domestic shape, winning five in a row; the dispiriting loss in Kilmarnock five weeks ago a distant memory. Dundee on the other hand prop up the table, having only won once in ten matches, losing the other nine. They have upgraded their manager but they should fear a ghoulish and grisly horror show.
A renewed attacking energy has had Hoops fans quite happy with recent results. In those five Scottish wins, Celtic have kept four clean sheets and outscored opponents 15-2. With a big rematch with Hearts on Saturday followed by a mid-week clash with Leipzig, whether or not Brendan Rodgers will set out a full-strength side at Dundee is up in the air. But he has been able to rely on all of his deep squad of late, and another three points closer to the top spot is everyone’s expectation.
Dundee meet Celtic for the first time since managing a dire 0-0 at Celtic Park last April to help avoid the drop. This season, they started with seven losses in a row, and were put out of the League Cup by Championship side Ayr 3-0. They have lost three straight since a 2-0 win at Hamilton, and a visit from red-hot Celtic is not at all what they need. As usual, they will pack the defense, hack, hang on tight and hope for luck on the counterattack or via Route One. To their credit, they have of late handled Celtic fairly well, losing four of five but keeping Celtic’s offense relatively reined in.
Stats & Facts Corner:
- Dundee have been very poor both in attack and defense, scoring only five goals and conceding 23.
- Celtic’s last seven goals have been scored by seven different players.
- Celtic have taken points from the last 31 matches against the Dark Blues.
Last five meetings:
Jim McIntyre, late of Ross County, is now in charge at Dundee, and that’s kind of a shame, because it was always real fun beating Neil McCann. McIntyre usually sets up the team in a 4-4-2, and against Celtic will put ten men behind the ball for most of the match. Sofien Moussa has never been effective alone up front against the Hoops, and perhaps Finnish striker Benjamin Kallman will be preferred. Kenny Miller should at least start the match as the proverbial “loves a goal against Celtic” opponent.
Dark Blues mainstays Josh Meekings and Paul McGowan are likely to miss out, but Glen Kamara, their best player, will look to control things in midfield. Expect more or less a back five, with speedy winger Jesse Curran one for Lustig to watch. They will need stout defense from Darren O’Dea and Preston loanee Andy Boyle.
When Dundee visited Celtic Park in April, Brendan Rodgers put out a full-strength lineup. They turned in a classic frustrating Celtic performance, in a game which meant little to the league outcome. This time out, although dealing with injury problems old and new, the gaffer can rely on quality replacements that have shone in recent matches.
Front to back. Odsonne Edouard needs as many games as he can get and the striker position is his for the foreseeable. Scott Sinclair, who showed his class against Hearts at the weekend, has earned a place in the starting eleven on Wednesday. Ryan Christie has earned the same, although I prefer him played in a Stuart Armstrong-type role in the midfield. Tom Rogic and James Forrest, who have been storming Scotland in October, will also start, although if Rodgers wants to rest one of them Lewis Morgan is available.
Olivier Ntcham and Kouassi Eboue are both out for the next few weeks, so Callum McGregor will need to shift back. Another possible combination, albeit one requiring a player out of position, is to have McGregor play box-to-box and shift Kris Ajer up to a defensive midfield role, which he should be comfortable enough with against Dundee’s anemic attack.
Kieran Tierney and Mikael Lustig will man the wings as usual and KT should have free rein to push up front, giving Celtic a vast arsenal of attacking options. Dedryck Boyata should come back in defense and partner Ajer, who is in need of game time after a five-week layoff. Filip Benkovic, so good of late, could do with a rest anyway. Craig Gordon will be back in goals.
Key points to watch:
- Defensive anti-football: Neil McCann was a big fan of agricultural football, and we can all remember McIntyre’s Ross County team kicking lumps out of Celtic as well. Surely a defensive slog is Dundee’s only hope but will they have the fortitude to hang together?
- Odsonne Edouard: 8 goals from 18 appearances so far this year is a decent return, but French Eddy has looked un peu perdu in his last two matches against Leipzig and Hearts. Up against a ponderous Dundee back line, he should have plenty of opportunity. The job is his with Leigh Griffiths out long-term, but he needs to show his quality on a more consistent basis.
- Beautiful football: Aside from a tight first half against Hearts, Celtic’s attack has been truly clicking recently, with 13 goals in the last three domestic matches. Can Celtic keep it turning over?
Advanced Stats from Modern Fitba
- Do you want a proper Halloween fright? Have a look at Dundee’s underlying numbers. With ten games played, they have still not achieved a higher Expected Goals total (quality of chances created vs chances conceded) than their opponents in any of those matches – the only team in the league with that ‘achievement’.
- Celtic have only been beaten on xG once: against Hearts in the second round. Their perceived upswing in domestic form is backed up by the underlying stats; in addition to the St. Johnstone and Hibs games showed above, they also gave Hearts a statistical hammering in the league cup semi-final.
Expected Goals (xG) Table
- It’s almost top versus bottom when it comes to chance quality for and against this season (measured in Expected Goals difference). Celtic top the xG table by some distance, while Dundee and St. Mirren are slowly starting to be cut adrift from the rest of the table.
- Celtic’s recent good results and high increase in goals scored was expected; throughout the season they’ve been creating the chances and the statistical wizard then almost guarantees that the blocked ketchup bottle labelled ‘goals’ will sooner or later give in and create an incredible mess all over some unlucky opposition’s defensive plate (sorry, Tommy Wright). Good news for Celtic fans is that the team is still a little bit away from their expected accuracy and conversion rates across the season: keep producing this level of chances and goals will keep coming in the same fashion.
- The only glimmer of hope for Dundee is that they should also start seeing a small increase in goals if they keep producing the same amount of chances. They are the worst team in the league when it comes to the % of all shots scored and % of shots on target scored. While statistically they can be expected to convert more chances than now across the whole season – and they’ve taken the 9th most shots in the league – their main issue is the average quality of those chances, which is the lowest in the league.
Prediction: Dundee 0, Celtic 3