Partick Thistle v Celtic
- Saturday 18 August 2018
- Firhill Stadium
- League Cup
Celtic look to turn their form around against a struggling Thistle side trying to deal with life post-relegation.
As their defence of the League Cup begins for a second year, Celtic find themselves in an unusual place, not having lost two matches in a row since the start of the 2014/15 campaign.
Celtic and Brendan Rodgers go into the match with yet another selection dilemma; last weekend at Tynecastle saw five changes to the starting XI and a rather uninspired performance. Odsonne Edouard looks to miss out on this one as well, although Moussa Dembele’s half-hour appearance in Athens hopefully will portend his possible selection in the starting XI, albeit among renewed transfer interest. Kristoffer Ajer will likely return at the back for the Hoops as well.
Partick Thistle are currently sitting mid-table after two games in the Scottish Championship, having beaten Falkirk and lost to Ayr United. In the League Cup group stages, they saw off Stenhousemuir, Morton and Albion Rovers, losing (again) to Ayr, and advancing to the knockout rounds. As usual, Kris Doolan is the goal threat for Thistle, although Aidan Fitzpatrick netted a brace in their 5-0 thrashing of Stranraer in the IRN-BRU Cup, and the excellent Tam O’Ware, formerly of Morton, is now playing in red-and-yellow stripes.
Both teams will want a win to get them back on track, although a loss would be far worse for Celtic. Thistle ran Celtic quite close in their last meeting, a 3-2 loss at Parkhead in last year’s Scottish Cup; on their day they are certainly capable of causing problems.
- After scoring more than three goals in five straight matches, Celtic have only scored three once in their last five.
- Celtic are unbeaten in 30 games (W29 D1 L0) against their Glasgow neighbours.
Last 5 matches:
Just guesses here, especially for Thistle. For Celtic, there will be no need to be overly defensive so 3-5-2 should ensure Celtic’s midfield isn’t overrun as it was at times during the loss to Hearts. I suspect Griffiths will likely be preferred to Dembele due to fitness; but I believe the Frenchman needs to be back in the starting XI as soon as possible for a myriad of reasons. Ajer returning at the centre of a back three will hopefully settle what has been a defence brutalised on and off the pitch so far this season. Finally, with some upcoming fixture congestion I would expect Scott Bain to start either this match or the upcoming league fixture with Hamilton Accies.
Partick Thistle will look to be resolute in defence and hit on the break. Mbuyi-Mutombo does not have a scoring record to scare anyone but he is a big lad and certainly capable of causing problems. Chris Erskine, Blair Spittal and Christie Elliott round out the familiar faces in Thistle’s squad.
Key points to watch:
- Celtic’s possession game. Opponents both European and domestic have been able to bully Celtic off the ball and disrupt a possession-heavy style. Do Thistle have it in them to do the same?
- Celtic at the back. Thistle do not have much to trouble them but worse strikers than theirs have been able to get one over on Celtic’s defense. Ajer should help, but Hendry and Simunovic desperately need good games, especially with the impending departure of Dedryck Boyata.
- Thistle vs Thistle. Their fall from Premiership grace was decisive, and they will have to fight very hard to get back up. A win here would be a major boost for them. I can see them battling tooth and nail or completely capitulating – neither would surprise me.
Prediction: Partick Thistle 1, Celtic 2