A man from the Middle East – battered, betrayed and beaten – makes an incredible return in near impossible circumstances. If only Nir Bitton was a regular starter, I could actually make something out of this joke.
I won’t lie, Easter Road on Easter Sunday is a preview writer’s dream. I can’t really resist the bait, so I’m going to get all the jokes out of my system now: at this crucial stage of the season, are Celtic rising again to become the domestic force they have been? Can Celtic roll the stone that is Ofir Marciano away from the tomb that is the Hibernian goal? Will Celtic dish out a drubbing as violent as Mel Gibson’s adaptation of The Passion? And so on.
Whether you like it or not, Neil Lennon made a significant step towards becoming permanent Celtic manager last week. Aberdeen was arguably the biggest hurdle in terms of achieving the Treble Treble, an achievement which would see oor Neil held aloft and exhalted as the King of the Celts.
Last season, Hibernian made a significant contribution to the Patter Testament by defeating Celtic and setting up a Glasgow Derby title decider. The Hoops cannot win the title today, but I believe they will take a significant step towards doing so.
So, whether you’re irreligious or just popping away from mass to catch the early kick-off, have a wonderful Easter Sunday.
Stats & Facts
- Since December 2015, Celtic have been defeated 10 times in the SPFL – nine of these defeats have been away from home.
- Hibernian are unbeaten in 8 league games, winning 6.
- Celtic have only conceded 3 league goals in 2019.
- The only game Hibs have lost since their change of management was against Celtic in the Scottish Cup.
- Celtic have lost four of their last six SPFL trips to Edinburgh – two against Hibernian and two against Hearts..
- Hibernian manager Paul Heckingbottom has a funny name.
Last Five Meetings
|Mar’19||Hibernian – Celtic 0-2||Scottish Cup|
|Dec’18||Hibernian – Celtic 2-0||Premiership|
|Oct’18||Celtic – Hibernian 4-2||Premiership|
|Apr’18||Hibernian – Celtic 2-1||Premiership|
|Jan’18||Celtic – Hibernian 1-0||Premiership|
Hibernian have been a well-drilled, well-organised side under Paul Heckingbottom. While they have possibly overperformed against underlying metrics,they will not be an easy prospect given some of their individual talents.
I expect Heckingbottom to set his team up pragmatically, sitting off the back line but pressing at moments of pre-determined weakness, i.e. forcing Scott Bain to spray wide passes to advanced full backs. Omeonga and Slivka are industrious weight to the middle, while Stevie Mallan has the technical ability to cause issues – especially from set-pieces.
Mark McNulty has done well since arriving from Sheffield United on loan, scoring 6 goals in 10 SPFL games.
Ryan Christie has multiple facial fractures after stupidly getting in the way of Dominic Ball’s innocent warm-up header, so he will likely not feature for the rest of the season.
In his press conference, Neil Lennon revealed that jack Hendry has a torn hamstring and will be out for the rest of the season. Only one half of that sentence is news to me.
While Daniel Arzani and Leigh Griffiths are back in training, they appear unlikely to feature anytime soon. Vakoun Issouf Bayo, Dedryck Boyata and Eboue Kouassi remain unavailable through injury. Craig Gordon appears to be on holiday.
Marvin Compper lost his passport while taking agap year travelling the length of the Congo River. He’s become one with the indigenous people and refuses to leave. Celtic are sending Scott Allan and Cristian Gamboa to rescue him. More on this in coming weeks.
I expect Celtic to line-up as close to last Sunday as possible. Tom Rogic should come in for Ryan Christie, changing Callum McGregor’s role slightly. Rogic’s ability to drift into the right half-space will be crucial, especially as the left-hand side inclusion of both Jonny Hayes and Kieran Tierney has made the team slightly unbalanced in recent weeks.
The inclusion of the Australian will allow Callum McGregor to play a deeper, more dictatorial role, while Scott Brown sensibly covers for Celtic’s marauding central defenders as they attempt to overload the middle of the park with bursting runs from the back.
Jeremy Toljan has not impressed me hugely, so the continued inclusion of Mikael Lustig is welcome until a more long-term replacement is sourced. His ability to play diagonal passes into the middle of the park from wide should help break down a sturdy, industrious Hibernian midfield.
Look Out For….
- A Rogic Return: No, I don’t have a hold of the inevitable team leak, but I’m predicting a Tom Rogic return. His ability to stretch teams and make himself an out-ball is pivotal in games against other Top 6 sides – he’ll be important to Celtic’s hopes of seeing out the season well.
- Off-the-boil KT: Kieran Tierney hasn’t looked himself since coming back from his injury. Daryl Horgan on the right will be cause for concern both in terms of troubling KT and pinning back Jonny Hayes.
- Kamberi Threat: While erratic and inconsistent, the Swiss striker is a danger when he is on his game. Think Samaras without the looks.
- Kris Ajer Bleeding: The Norwegian warrior is improving game-by-game and is surely pleasing the Da’s with his knack of getting ‘in aboot it’. Fiver says he bleeds or at least clatters his head at some stage of what will be a fierce battle.
Hibernian 0, Celtic 2
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.