Match Preview | Kilmarnock vs Celtic

Kilmarnock v Celtic (SPFL Scottish Premiership)

Sunday 23rd September 2018

Rugby Park, Kilmarnock


Rugby Park redemption a must for Rodgers

Think of some of the greatest moments of the last ten years domestically for Celtic and Rugby Park is sure to spring to mind.  The stirring three goal comeback that saved  Neil Lennon’s job. Lennon taking his team back there later that season to demolish Kilmarnock 6-0 in a title winning party. Tom Rogic’s wonder strike to ease what was a growing pressure on Ronny Deila and to effectively secure the title for Celtic.

The time for another big performance is upon us, as a commanding three points on the back of last night’s late winner against Rosenborg could set the tone for the rest of the season. Celtic enter this game 5 points adrift of early pace-setters Hearts and this is the first of those pesky post-Europa League fixtures that fans love. On top of this, the recent record against Kilmarnock has not been great with just the one win in four league meetings last season. Steve Clarke, seen by many as a potential successor to Rodgers should he leave Celtic, has had a decent start to the season with his side taking 7 points from their first 5 games. They are out of the League Cup following  a 3-1 defeat at home to Rangers.


Stats & Facts Corner

  • Since taking over as Celtic manager, Brendan Rodgers has faced Kilmarnock 8 times: Winning five and drawing two, his solitary loss came last season in the 1-0 defeat at Rugby Park – only his second domestic loss as Celtic manager.
  • The goalscorer on that occasion was Youssouf Mulumbu who now finds himself in a Celtic shirt and potentially making his league debut for his new Bhoys against his old boys.
  • Killie’s top scorer this season is Eamonn Brophy, a former youth player at Celtic between 2003 and 2011.


Last 5 meetings:


Line ups:

While Kilmarnock go into the game on the back of a 3-2 defeat to Hibernian it would be no surprise to see them go with the same eleven despite the deadline day arrivals of Jack Byrne and Bright Enobakhare. They will look to Stephen O’Donnell to continue his good form and Clarke may keep the pre-historic Kris Boyd in reserve.

Celtic have been quite fluid this season in moving from a 4-2-3-1 to a 3-5-2 and after last night’s win against Rosenborg, Rodgers may look to make a few changes. Mikey Johnson and Leigh Griffiths could get the nod as well as a debut in the hoops for Youssouf Mulumbu. Kristoffer Ajer has been struggling  with a virus so he’s likely to sit this one out.


Key battles:

  • Rodgers v Clark: The subplot to what happens on the pitch is the battle in the dugouts. Celtic struggled to break Kilmarnock down last season after the appointment of Clarke as manager and there is no doubt that Rodgers will be aiming to get one over his Clarke this time around. The two men have crossed paths several times before; they both worked under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and Clarke’s West Bromwich Albion handed Rodgers’ Liverpool a 3-0 defeat in his first game at the club, Clarke having been let go as Liverpool’s assistant manager after Rodgers’ appointment.
  • Celtic v Squad Rotation: A tweet a few weeks back said that the biggest danger to Celtic in the league this season is Celtic. Whilst Craig Levein may think different, it is hard to disagree with this social media hot take. Celtic enter into a period of Thursday-Sunday games for the next few months while they compete on three fronts in the League, Europa League and a double defence of the League Cup to contend with. The need for squad rotation will be huge so it would be no surprise to see some fresh legs in this game.
  • Possession v Penetration: Modern Fitba did a fantastic piece here on sides who limit the opposition when out of possession and it is no surprise to see Kilmarnock as one of the most successful. One of the accusations levelled at Celtic in recent times is the amount of possession without serious penetration. The onus will be on Celtic to be patient while on the ball but also to be creative in their thinking.


Advanced Stats (from ModernFitba)

Expected Goals (xG) Table

  • Word of warning on Kilmarnock; the difference between the quality of the chances they’ve created and conceded (measured in Expected Goals), is actually third in the league so far, better than Hibs, Rangers and Aberdeen. Simply put: their performances have been better than their results.
  • Celtic and Hearts have been in a league of their own when it comes to Expected Goals difference so far, they are deservedly top of the table so far.


Goals and Chance Quality

  • Kilmarnock have been very good at limiting chances against so far; they’ve not only allowed the second least shots against, but the quality of those chances (the xG) is also the second lowest. So not only do they restrict opponents to few chances, the chances they do give up is on average of low quality.
  • Celtic is the best team in the league when it comes to restricting chances against, but the chances they do concede have been of a slightly higher quality than what Kilmarnock has allowed.


Chance Map:

  • In terms of the location of their chances, Kilmarnock have regularly gotten off shots in good locations inside their opponent’s Danger Zone (middle of the penalty box vertically). Defensively, it’s even better: they’ve not allowed a single attempt against inside their own 6-yard-box. One weakness so far: they’ve conceded 7 headers in some very dangerous locations in the middle of their own penalty box.
  • Kilmarnock have been at their most dangerous at the end of their games – they’ve created 8 chances within the last five minutes of their  five league games so far. They’ve started games very well defensively, only conceding 9 chances up until the 40th minute. They struggle at the end however, with half their chances conceded (19) having come either in the last 5 mins before halftime or after the 70th minute.



  • There has been plenty of talk about the lack of efficiency by Celtic in front of goal and the stats back this up; they’re second last in the league on all three finishing metrics, their ratios about 10% below the historic average for the type of chances they’ve had. What can solve this? In essence; just time – over a bigger sample of games such rates will almost always go back to the norm. Keep shooting at this rate and goals will start coming very soon.
  • Kilmarnock’s finishing rates are very close to the norm: overall the % of shots scored and on target based on total shots attempted is what can be expected.


Prediction: Kilmarnock 0, Celtic 1





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