- Bhoys Bound For Buddies Battle
~~~~~~~~~~ Official TC Match Preview ~~~~~~~~~~
Kyogo Furuhashi's second half brace secured the League Cup Final victory over Hibs
Wednesday, 22 December 2021
The SMISA Stadium, Paisley
Ange Postecoglou's Bhoys don't have much time to celebrate Sunday's League Cup triumph, with yet another match in this stacked December schedule and short turnaround, with just roughly 72 hours between lifting the trophy on Sunday and being fully prepared for the short trip to Paisley on Wednesday.
Before proceeding, it should be noted there are questions about the possibility this game happening or what sort of side either team will be able to field is very much open to conjecture at this point.
The hosts have already been badly affected by COVID issues in recent days and between the Government and the Footballing Authorities, there is more than a little unsettled about what games will be able to be played - or even if they should - and if so, whether there will be crowds allowed to watch.
This game officially marks the halfway point in the league campaign, being the 19th fixture of the full 38 match season, and with the League Cup now once again secured in the Celtic Park trophy cabinet, all attention will be entirely focused on theses crucial league matters - and they cannot afford any kind of Cup winning hangover.
The Bhoys are currently 7 points off the pace in the race for the league title - although have played one game fewer - which underlines the importance of claiming all three points on Wednesday, and narrow that gap to 4 points once again.
Celtic come into this game having won 15 of their past 17 games in all competitions - the only defeat in all of that being away to Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League - and will be looking to extend the current run of form with an 8th consecutive victory on Wednesday evening against St Mirren.
During this run the Hoops have shown they will never say die - that they've battled through with a depleted squad, they've found ways to win from all kinds of situations and even as exemplified as recently as last week, will not quit under any circumstances until the final whistle sounds.
The Bhots will be without August's hatrick hero, David Turnbull on Wednesday.
For their part, Jim Goodwin's side have more than a few headaches of their own, not just in climbing the table, but more immediately, if they will even be able to field a team for Wednesday, after it was revealed they have had to cancel training sessions in recent days due to COVID cases through their camp.
The Paisley side have proven to be ready to battle it out right to the end in games this season. What they might lack in finesse and skill they make up for with their fitness. In the last 15 minutes of games this season, they have only conceded two goals - one of which was in the 6-0 hammering at Parkhead in August.
Indeed, no team has earned a share of the spoils more often this season than St Mirren, with literally half (9/18 overall) of the games they've played in the Premiership resulting in a stalemate - including five on their own patch.
Like Celtic, the Buddies have also repeatedly proven that they are committed to playing right to the end - and even seem to get more determined and resillient the closer they get to the end if they feel as though they could get something out of a game.
Only once have St Mirren conceded a goal in the last 15 minutes and it has ended up costing them points. By contrast there have been at least three times where they have scored late on to salvage a point from a losing position in games.
That is the kind of battling quality that deserves commendation and recognition for.
There is no denying that Wednesday's hosts would have preferred to be further from the dropzone than they currently are, and have only managed the three league wins all season thus far highlights this - the last of which coming back in October, and their last victory at home coming in September - but it can't be denied that they have often proven to be much more awkward proposition for opposition teams to put away.
The point being, coming off the high of winning the League Cup on Sunday, this trip to Paisley could potentially be a banana skin if the Hoops are not fully geared up and ready for action against a determined opposition, and it is essential to be so, to claim the three points on offer and narrow that gap at the top of the table once again.
Liel Abada scored twice in the 6-0 demolition when these sides met earlier this season
In the aftermath of the Cup Final, and as pleasing as it was to have Kyogo back in action, Ange Postecoglou may need to take the longer view with still so many games to get through and to make sure he is available for these, including the new year derby, it could make sense to perhaps leave the Japanese International on the bench for Wednesday's game, and maybe come off the bench if needed.
Celtic, already without a number of attacking options, will be further depleted, with David Turnbull the latest player heading to the treatment room with an apparent hamstring strain. In addition, the Hoops will also be without defender Carl Starfelt, who will be serving a suspension following his dismissal at Ross County, last week.
All of which has made it all the more remarkable the Bhoys have been able to keep the results coming. And part of that has resulted a few youngsters and squad players getting more valuable gametime and experience of first team football, and this match could be another opportunity for one or two of these to once again feature.
As for the host side, Jim Goodwin has had to scrap training sessions over the weekend as the Paisley club has been effected by some COVID related troubles, which has reduced the numbers currently available for selection.
With the Government declaring that events such as football matches will be largely without spectators after Christmas, and if the game does go ahead, this may be the last time that Celtic play in front of a live crowd for a little while.
Ange Postecoglou secured his first prize as Celtic manager at the weekend
~~~~ Head to Head ~~~~
P: 257 W: 178 D: 46 L: 33
Away v St Mirren
P: 128 W: 83 D: 23 L: 22
Last 5 Meetings
W W L W W
Away v STM
W W W W D
~~~~ 2021/22 Form ~~~~
W W W W W ~ D L D L D
W W W W W ~ D L D L D
CEL Away ~ STM Home
W W L W W ~ D D D L L