Celtic – St. Mirren | The Preview

Celtic vs St. Mirren

(SPFL Premiership)

Wednesday, 23rd January

Celtic Park, Glasgow

 

After a tougher trip to Mordor than anything Frodo experienced, Celtic need to regain momentum in the league as they welcome last year’s Championship winners to Parkhead.

I didn’t go to my first Celtic game until I was 14, and at the time I wasn’t even interested in football. The only reason I had agreed to go with my friend Rory was the promise of an Italian meal before the match. The game itself was a 5-0 Ronny Deila-led domination of Dundee United, with a Kris Commons penalty that I can still remember celebrating, but I also asked Rory at kickoff why there were so many empty seats in such a large stadium.

The answer was because this was the first match after the fiasco against Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s Molde in Norway, but Rory also told me that all those seats would be refilled. And I’m not afraid to admit that as someone who didn’t get football, I didn’t understand why anyone would want to come back to a club that was being humiliated by Molde, the 14-year-old me thinking: ‘why not just go watch someone else?

I learned why very quickly. I started to love Celtic, watching every game and getting to as many as possible. Celtic turned me from someone apathetic to the game, to that guy who spends their spare time reading about xG difference and listening to guys on podcasts shouting, ‘Where’s ma right back?!’.

There are plenty of parallels between my first game at Parkhead and Wednesday’s night encounter with St. Mirren. In 2015, like now, an important game had been lost. Then, as now, there are doubts about the future relationship between the club and the current manager. It would be fitting to see this comparison completed by Celtic putting five past their next league opponents.

 

Stats & Facts

  • St Mirren have only scored 15 goals in total this season under manager Oran Kearney, with eight away from home. Celtic meanwhile haven’t lost or drawn a domestic game at home all season, so it will be a tall order for St. Mirren to come away from the game with anything more than nothing.
  • The highest Celtic scoreline in meetings between the sides was a 7-0 thrashing in 1963, while the highest St. Mirren score saw Celtic embarrassed 4-0  in Tony Mowbray’s last game as Celtic manager in 2010.
  • The Hoops won 5-0 at Love Street in 1986 to beat Heart of Midlothian on goal difference for the title, and since then the top flight champions have always been from Glasgow.

 

Last Five Meetings

  • St. Mirren – Celtic 0-0, Sep’18 (Premiership)
  • Celtic – St. Mirren 4-1, Mar’17 (Scottish Cup)
  • St. Mirren – Celtic 0-2, May’15 (Premiership)
  • Celtic – St. Mirren 4-1, Dec’14 (Premiership)
  • St. Mirren – Celtic 1-2, Sep’14 (Premiership)

 

Line-ups

A well-mixed footballing cocktail of experimentation and tried and tested methods is needed from Celtic through this month in the Premiership. The next two games in the league calendar, at home against St Mirren and Hamilton Accies, will offer Brendan Rodgers an opportunity to try and integrate new loan signings Oliver Burke and Timo Weah, in addition to finding the best solution to the Kieran Tierney-shaped hole in defence.

However, ‘the Brodge’ must also be careful to not mix things up too much. His fondness for rotations has been seen as partly responsible for some disappointing results this season, especially away from home.

Saturday’s cup win over Airdrie saw another outing for academy graduate Anthony Ralston. I’m gonna say it, I like wee Ralchops.

He may not have all the class of the first-choice fullback on the other side of the pitch, but if KT is a bottle of Dom Perignon, then Tony is a pint of Thunderbird. No, it is certainly not as refined and crisp as the champagne, but you get a lot of bang for your buck. As an attacking option he is no worse than the aging Mika, but the problem is he only seems to have a forward gear – his recovery speed is rather slow.

Saturday also proved the value of Scott Bain as a keeper. Although he wasn’t called upon many times, he did his job very well when he was, with his distribution miles better than Craige Gordon. I would like to see Bain in the side more often, despite him only being the designated cup goalie this season.

For Oran Kearney’s side, Saturday’s match against Championship side Alloa took a dramatic turn. 10-man St Mirren were trailing 2-0 going into the second half after new signing Brad Lyons (that’s right, the specky one, Harry Potter one.) was sent off with a second yellow for a dubious dive. They equalized in the 85th minute and went ahead in the 87th, with strikes from substitutes Cooke and McAllister. Along with a first professional goal for 17-year-old Ethan Erhahon saved the Buddies from an upset.

I expect new Romanian CB Mihai Popescu and Jack Baird line up in front of Vaclav Hladky in a  4-4-1-1, with Erhahon and on-loan Rangers fullback Lee Hodson. As with most teams who come to Parkhead, St Mirrren will sit in and attempt to soak up the pressure inevitably put on by Celtic and hit on the counterattack if possible, so it should be a busy night for the defensive five.

 

Key Battles

  • Scott Sinclair vs All the People Who Think He Is An Empty Jersey: Despite the fact that Sinclair has scored some of our most important goals this season, including a header to net Celtic all three points in Trondheim, a glorious back-heel at home against the Sheep, and a hat-trick that secured the win at Pittodrie, some still maintain that just because he’s not the 2016/17 incarnation of himself he’s of no use. I hope he proves them wrong.
  • Ethan Erhahon vs James Forrest: If he plays on Wednesday, the 17-year-old fullback will be up against a player in the prime of his career and on the form of his life, who has managed a goal or an assist every 99 minutes in all competitions this season. It’ll be a hell of a lot of work for the youngster.
  • Brendan Rodgers vs The Temptation to Bring on Nir Bitton: Absence makes the heart grow fonder and after a grand total of 297 days out injured this Israeli defensive force could easily increase the xBanter of any match fivefold. With some fans calling him the hero we need, can Brendan resist?

 

Prediction

Celtic 5, St. Mirren 0


Born and bred in Dunblane (No, he actually has never met Andy Murray. No, he doesn't like tennis very much) and now a student at Edinburgh uni, Alex was brought into the Celtic fold by his good friend Rory. His life aspiration is that Ryan Christie will accept his friend request on Facebook.


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