St. Johnstone v Celtic | The Match Preview





Here we go again on our own, going down the only road we’ve ever known. Like a group of drifters we were born to never walk alone. These are the words we all loathe to hear – it’s time to go back to Perth. 

Fresh from being pumped up and down the park by the Salzburg branch of the Red Bull corp on Thursday, a trip to Perth is surely unwelcome. Can we finally add St Johnstone to the list of Alashkert, Rosenborg, Suduva, Partick Thistle and Livingston – teams this season that we have scored more than 1 goal against in 90 minutes? Rodgers will surely look to freshen the team up after the slog in Salzburg, but the fringe players have not exactly covered themselves in glory this season. Either way it’s sliced, it’s going to be one of those tricky games St Johnstone love to serve up.

St. Johnstone have not won in four, but their last home game in the SPFL saw them hold Aberdeen to a 1-1 draw. They are the definition of a classic, honest-pro team and a bit of a pain in the arse, to be honest. On a personal note, I went up to McDiarmid Park for a game on the 27th of December in 1997. I was sat in the front row of the stadium behind the goal. It was horrendously freezing and we were beaten 1-0 thanks to a George O’Boyle goal. Let’s make sure none of that happens again, Celtic. Because if George O’Boyle does score again, I might start to think we should have signed another centre-back this summer…


Facts Corner:

  • Celtic have not scored more than 1 goal in an SPFL match since the opening game of the season.
  • St Johnstone have twice as many points as the league’s other ‘saint’ team (St. Mirren).
  • The famous stone that St. Johnstone is named after resides in Neilston, which, funnily enough, also nearly has the word ‘stone’ in its name.


Last 5 meetings:



Tommy Wright made three changes from the last game against us when taking on Hearts last weekend and it will be interesting to see what he goes with this time. I imagine Tony Watt, Liam Craig and David Wotherspoon will come back in and the fact that they took us so close the last time will mean that, barring injuries, Wright may ask the same 11 to go again.

Rodgers is a fan of resting large parts of the team when still in Europe and this weekend will probably be no different. Perhaps time for Izzy and Gamboa to come back in and Jozo was fit enough to make the bench against Red Bull. Morgan probably deserves a start and we really need Sinclair to kick on. The only thing that may stop Rodgers making such big changes is that this is our last game until after the international break and he may feel the first team can go to the well one more time before playing kiddie on football for a week.


Key battles:

  • Scott Sinclair v Richard ‘Richie’ Foster: If there is a time for Sinky to regain his confidence, it is when up against the absolute mug that is Foster. My nan could run rings round him. My nan is Lionel Messi though, to be fair.
  • Celtic v Celtic: Celtic is Celtic’s final horcrux. To kill Celtic, they first have to kill themselves. But by killing themselves this will kill Celtic and reverse the killing of themselves, thus resurrecting the themselves/Celtic of Brendan Rodgers’ first season
  • Me v CelticTV: I swear to fuck, if those jokers fuck me around again this week, I will pull that subscription harder than when I realised porn was free on the internet.


Advanced Stats (from

Expected Goals (xG) Table

  • St. Johnstone’s underlying performances match their results well; they are 8th in the league and 9th when it comes to the quality of the chances they’ve created and conceded.
  • Celtic have the best expected goals difference in the league, so why haven’t the results followed? The next table has the explanation…



  • It’s the finishing that has let down Celtic so far. They are significantly below their expected rates (the historic norm for the type of chances they’ve had) in the three metrics, and towards the very bottom of the league in all of them. Over a full season, finishing rates usually return to their expected rate – Celtic will hope that starts happening sooner rather than later.
  • St. Johnstone’s finishing is also below expected, although to a lesser agree than Celtic. Their main issue has been getting shots on target. Once they do hit the target, the scoring rate is almost as expected.


Goals and Chance Quality

  • To hammer home a point: Celtic create the chances but don’t finish them. This is clearly seen in their xG created so far; a total of 14.1, compared to their 6 non-penalty goals scored in 7 games. They have the second most shots in league after Hearts and their chances have on average been of the third highest quality. Ketchup. Bottle.
  • St. Johnstone is pretty much middling in all categories, except their chance quality for and against. As with the previous seasons, they don’t create many chances and concede a lot more, but their results are reasonable because their chances are of high quality and the opposition’s are of a much lower quality on average.



  • St. Johnstone’s form has been fairly predictable – they’ve created more chances against the weaker teams, but consistently achieve around 1 xG less in chance quality than the opposition when they face supposedly better sides.
  • Since their first three league games, Celtic have had around 1 xG more than the opposition against some fairly decent opposition (except for St. Mirren). As seen at Kilmarnock, that doesn’t always result in a win, and they need to create more high quality chances on Sunday against a team that don’t concede many of those.


Chance Map:

  • St. Johnstone have had a steady increase of their chances the longer their league games have gone on, while a similar pattern emerges when it comes to conceding chances.


Prediction: St Johnstone 0, Celtic 2


Graeme is a Celtic fan living in Bayern. He was the original bum on seat 1, row S, section 113 and stayed there for 11 seasons. He now contents himself with Celtic TV. He was one half of History Bhoys Abroad and has a background in journalism. Tom Rogic completes him. He can be found on twitter under @PodestrianG

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