Kilmarnock – Celtic | The Preview

Celtic must rebound quickly from midweek disappointment ahead of tough test in Kilmarnock

Hitting back after disappointing European fixtures has – unfortunately – been a bit of a theme this season from Brendan Rodgers and company, but Kilmarnock away would have been far down the wish list of fixtures for Rodgers and Celtic fans after the defeat to Valencia.

Since Steve Clarke took over at Rugby Park, Killie have frequently been a thorn in Celtic’s side, with Brendan Rodgers only having one win, two draws, and two losses against Clarke since he has been at Kilmarnock, Rodgers going four games without a win before a comprehensive 5-1 victory over Kilmarnock at Celtic Park in December.

Previous to Celtic’s defeat against Valencia, there was a positive atmosphere around the club. Undefeated since the end of the winter break, the Hoops seemed to have reinforced well in problem areas by bringing in Timo Weah, Oliver Burke, Jeremy Toljan, and Issouf Bayo.

This added depth buoyed Celtic to the good performances in January and the first part of February. After Thursday’s disappointing performance, Celtic will need to utilize that depth in order to beat a Kilmarnock team that is well managed and has lofty aspirations for their spot on the table come year’s end.

Kilmarnock have certainly been a “bogey club” for Celtic the past two years, but these new talented additions can help to completely end the voodoo Killie have seemingly had over Celtic. However, these new Bhoys will need to learn quickly that a trip to Ayrshire will be no walk in the….Rugby Park.

 

Stats & Facts

  • Before Steve Clarke’s arrival at Kilmarnock, Celtic had won the six previous matches with Kilmarnock in all competitions. They have only won once since then.
  • For all the talk of his regression (including by yours truly) Scott Sinclair is currently the leading scorer for Celtic at 16 goals this season.
  • Last season’s fifth place finish was the highest for Kilmarnock since the 2006/2007 season when they also finished fifth.

 

Last 5 Meetings

Dec 2018 | Celtic 5, Kilmarnock 1 | Premiership

Sep 2018 | Kilmarnock 2, Celtic 1 | Premiership

May 2018 | Celtic 0, Kilmarnock 0 | Premiership

Feb 2018 | Kilmarnock 1, Celtic 0 | Premiership

Oct 2017| Celtic 1, Kilmarnock 1 | Premiership

 

Line up:

Kilmarnock will likely go with a similar team to the eleven that earned a 0-0 draw in the Scottish Cup against Rangers last weekend, with a few changes. Celtic loanee Yousouff Mulumbu will have to be replaced in the middle of the pitch, with Aaron Tshibola likely to come in.

Leading scorer Eamonn Brophy is out of the squad due to injury. Against Rangers Conor McAlney, who is on loan from Fleetwood Town, replaced Brophy and you would assume he would do so again. Kris Boyd is also an option for Kilmarnock since he won’t have a conflict with any Rangers matches at the same time, though Liverpool loanee Liam Miller could also deputize in the striker position.

Besides those potential changes, you would expect Killie to put forth a similar line-up to the one that was so successful in limiting Rangers attack last weekend.

With a tough midweek fixture behind them, Celtic will likely need to utilize a different lineup than the one sent out against Valencia. While there are still some injury issues for Celtic, Brendan Rodgers is starting to see more of his first team return from the training table.

Kieran Tierney has been back training after missing time with a hip injury. Thursday was too soon to see his return to the squad and I suspect Kilmarnock plastic pitch will not be the place Brendan Rodgers wants to bring our collective large adult son KT back on.

Odsonne Edouard did feature in a substitute role against Valencia and put in a decent shift. Given his versatility and ability to play on the left, I suspect he will get the start there in place of Scott Sinclair, while Oliver Burke will remain in the center forward role. Your second favorite American – me being your number one – Timo Weah will get the start on the right in place of James Forrest.

We can only hope that Brendan thinks of all of us who are in a What’s App group with fellow Cynic Christian Wulff and return his countryman Kristoffer Ajer to the starting eleven. Besides Ajer, I would expect to see the same backline as Thursday, with Scott Bain keeping his place between the sticks.

 

Key battles:

  • Celtic v. the Killie Counter-Attack: On Thursday, Celtic had most of the possession against Valencia but failed to create any decent chances, with the Spanish side easily soaking up the pressure and countering. It will likely be more of the same against Kilmarnock for Celtic, with Steve Clarke wanting his side to stay organized in the back, counter when Celtic have men committed forward, and try to capitalize on Celtic mistakes as Valencia did so efficively midweek. Owen James Brown tweeted that Kilmarnock actually lead the league in shots off a counter-attack, so Celtic will need to guard against this potent Killie counter threat and not get frustrated trying to break down an organized Killie side in the final third.
  • Jordan Jones v. Jeremy Toljan: Jordan Jones has been a player I have admired the past few years. The Killie winger is in his last season at Rugby Park, signing a pre-contract with Rangers for next season in January. Full credit must go to Jeremy Toljan so far in his Celtic career for putting in great performances while people constantly yelling “There’s ma right back!” at him around Glasgow.
  • Me going on about how great Eamonn Brophy is and how Celtic should sign him as Leigh Griffiths replacement v. the Cynic WhatsApp Group: If that long title was not a clue, I think highly of injured Kilmarnock striker Eamonn Brophy. Before the season, with Kris Boyd seemingly only being part time at Kilmarnock to make time for punditry and pies, Brophy seemed the perfect replacement for the veteran Killie striker. However, Brophy has been out with an injury since the beginning of February and it seems his absence has affected Killie’s attack, scoring only 3 goals in the 3 games Brophy has missed. With the striker seeming out until the end of March, Kilmarnock will need to find an alternative source for goals if they want to keep up their chase for a European spot in the table.

 

Prediction

Kilmarnock 0, Celtic 1

 

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.


Matt is a Celtic supporter born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio and is a graduate of the University of Dayton (Go Flyers!). A few years ago, Matt learned about the burgeoning field of analytics in football. Excited with this new knowledge, he could not wait to apply this newfound wisdom to his beloved Celtic and the rest of Scottish football. However, he soon found that there was very little available when it came to these advanced stats for Scottish football. Taking matter into his own hands, Matt decided to track these various stats for Celtic. However, he soon realised he wanted to know how Celtic and it's players compared to their title rivals in Scotland. Then he wanted to compare every club in the SPFL Premiership. This slippery slope led to Matt tracking the stats for every club and player in the SPFL Premiership and Championship, as well as in depth blogs on specific topics in Scottish Football on his blog, The Backpass Rule (https://thebackpassrule.wordpress.com/). He can also be found on twitter under @thebackpassrule


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