Celtic vs. Hamilton Academical
Saturday 24th December
Kick off: 12:30
Sky Sports 1
Following on from a fairly routine win over Partick Thistle, which saw their domestic winning streak extend to thirteen games, Celtic now turn their attention to their next opponents, Hamilton. When the sides last met earlier this month it was Celtic emerged victorious with a 1-0 victory. Come Saturday, will Celtic make it fourteen wins on the trot, or will Hamilton find a way to topple the Champions?
Prior to the Partick Thistle game, Brendan Rodgers made clear his intent to use both Tuesday’s and this upcoming fixture as an opportunity to give some of our promising young players some game time. As such, Calvin Miller was given his first senior cap at left back, whilst Liam Henderson was given his third start of the season (winning Man of the Match in the process). It’s unlikely that Miller will start the next game, whilst Henderson may have a chance, but it’s not known what youth players are next in line for a call up. One possible candidate however is one of our summer signings, Kristoffer Ajer. Ajer, who can play operate across the midfield and in central defence, has put on a number of impressive performances for the Under-20s. This, combined with the fact that he’s already fairly experiment for his age (prior to joining Celtic he captained his former club IK Start in the Norwegian Tippeligaen (or the Eliteserien as it’s now known)), could make him a prime candidate for a call up to the senior squad.
Could Leigh Griffiths give Celtic the gift of goals this Christmas?
When we last played Hamilton on the 13th of this month, Leigh Griffiths was the man who gave Celtic their victory, scoring the only goal of the game. However, neither he nor Moussa Dembele could find the back of the net against Partick Thistle on Tuesday. Was it just an off night, or a sign of the fatigue setting in from our congested December fixture list? If it’s a case of the latter, Brendan Rodgers may be tempted to give both players a well-earned rest before Christmas. Perhaps a youth player, or maybe even someone like Nadir Ciftci (possibly with the aim of putting him in the shop window) will be given a start.
Elsewhere on the pitch, Scott Sinclair marked his full return to the squad with a goal on Tuesday – which would turn out to be the only goal on the night. Sinclair currently holds the honour of being the league’s joint top goal scorer (alongside Ross County’s Liam Boyce) with ten goals and two assists to his name. And should he feature on Saturday, you would fancy him to add to that tally.
In regards to injury updates, there’s been some good news heading in to Saturday’s game. James Forrest has, somewhat surprisingly, recovered from his injury sooner than expected, and will apparently be ready for the weekend. Given that he’s only just back in training however, you would think he’s more likely to be utilised as a sub.
It would be fair to say that Hamilton haven’t had a particularly great season so far, finding themselves languishing in 9th place. The Accies have been on a bit of a poor run in recent months, with their last win being a 1-0 victory over Aberdeen on the 25th October. Since that game, they’ve drawn five matches and lost two. Whilst they’ve still been picking up points, I’m sure Martin Canning would ideally like to see his side start converting some of those draws into wins.
Will it be a Christmas to remember for Hamilton?
Whilst many would say it’s unlikely that this forthcoming match will see Hamilton capture that elusive win, given that fatigue is definitely beginning to take its toll on Celtic’s performances, a surprise win for the Accies isn’t completely unrealistic.
There hasn’t been many standout players for Hamilton this season, but one player Celtic will need to be wary of is Ali Crawford – Hamilton’s leading goal scorer. Crawford, who has made nearly two hundred appearances for the Accies, has scored seven times so far this season, making him fifth in the league scorer’s table. Whilst other players have obviously contributed (such as their striker Alejandro D'Acol, who has chipped in with three goals of his own) Crawford has been Hamilton’s main man this season. And should the Celtic defence find a way to deal with Crawford, they’ll have essentially neutralised Hamilton‘s attacking threat.