Hearts vs. Celtic
Sunday 2nd April
Kick Off: 12:30
Sky Sports 2 & Sky Sports Mix
The international break is over and normal service has resumed. After two weeks without them, Celtic are back in action against Hearts. A win on Sunday would not only see us continue our unbeaten run but, perhaps more importantly, would see us clinch the league title.
When the sides last met back in January, Celtic won the game 4-0. So should we expect a similar result tomorrow, or will Hearts put up more of a fight in the hope that they can postpone Celtic’s title celebrations for another week?
Brendan Rodgers will surely have been impressed by the performances of those who featured for Scotland during their international fixtures, particularly Stuart Armstrong, who was awarded Man of the Match in his debut against Slovenia. Whilst most of the players who featured in those matches are likely to start for us on Sunday, who else can we expect to see come kick off?
Prior to the international break, one of the main talking points within the Celtic support was the question of who should be starting up front for us as our lone striker. Whilst Moussa Dembele has understandably had the position locked down for most of the season, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that he hasn’t been at his best in the last couple of matches. The last time Dembele went through such a rough patch, back in December, Leigh Griffiths was re-introduced to the starting eleven, with fairly impressive results. As such, many within the support are calling for Brendan Rodgers to do so again. Whilst Griffiths hasn’t racked up much playing time recently, having played a grand total of 86 minutes of domestic football so far this year, he’s still a player that you would fancy to score a goal whenever he makes an appearance. At the same time, some would argue that Dembele was simply in need of a rest, something he’s had during this international break, and that he’ll potentially be back to his best come Sunday. Either way, it’s a situation that the manager will definitely be putting a lot of thought in to ahead of the match.
Will Sinclair make it four (or more!) in three against Hearts?
A player that finds himself in a similar situation to Dembele is Scott Sinclair. Sinclair, who has undoubtedly been one of our star performers this season, has struggled to produce much of anything during his last couple of outings, something that will surely be frustrating for the man himself. However, Sinclair has a good record against Hearts, having scored three goals in his two matches against them and will surely be eager to do so again (even more so, knowing that a goal could potentially clinch us the title on Sunday).
Another topic of discussion heading in to Sunday’s game, is the question of who should be our central defensive pairing. Most fans seem to be in agreement that Jozo Simunovic should be starting, but the question of who plays beside him is much more contentious. Whilst Dedryck Boyata has definitely improved this season, and proven himself to be fairly solid defender on his day, there are still some concerns regarding his lapses in concentration. Our other option would be Erik Sviatchenko. Many would argue that the Danish international, who was widely regarded as being something of a Mr. Reliable for us in the past, has looked out of sorts since the turn of the year. Kolo Toure is another candidate, but the fact that he’s only a played few minutes of football this year makes that possibility seem slightly less likely. It’s a difficult decision to make, especially as all three are equally capable in their own right, and even more difficult to predict who the manager will ultimately decide to go with.
Regardless of who he does pick, the importance of this match will certainly not be lost on Brendan Rodgers, who will be surely be looking forward to winning his first ever league title.
Hearts are on a mixed run of form heading in to Sunday’s game. Whilst they won their last match with a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Hamilton, they lost their three games prior to that. This inconsistency has largely been a defining characteristic of Ian Cathro’s tenure as manager, so it’s difficult to predict what sort of Hearts team we’ll face on Sunday. As previously mentioned, Cathro’s only match against Celtic so far was a 4-0 loss, so he’ll definitely be hoping for a better result than that on Sunday.
So what player’s will Ian Cathro be pinning his hopes on to cause an upset tomorrow?
Could Jamie Walker be the man to lead Hearts to a surprise victory?
Jamie Walker has been Hearts main man this season. The 23 year old finds himself fourth in the league top scorer’s table, having scoring scored twelve and assisted with two so far this season.
However, Walker certainly isn’t the only attacking threat Celtic will need to keep an eye on. Callum Paterson has managed to score eight so far this season, a fairly good return for someone who plays at right back. Other players to look out for include Cameroonian international Arnaud Djoum who’s scored six so far this season, and Esmaël Gonçalves who has managed to score four goals since returning to Scotland in January.