- Closing the Gap Begins at Home"I look at that first block of games and we showed we are heading in the right direction. We got knocked out the Champions League and lost some games. That doesn't sit well with me. But my job is to make sure through this next phase we bridge that gap."
~~~~~~~~~~ Official TC Match Preview ~~~~~~~~~~
CalMac returns fit from Scotland duty to lead the Hoops
Saturday, 11 September 2021
The Bhoys return to action this weekend, with the visit of Ross County to Paradise and an eye to get back to winning ways, following defeats in the last 2 outings prior to the international break.
The back to back away defeats, firstly against AZ Alkmaar and then in the Glasgow derby underlined that this is still very much a team in transition and while progress under Ange Postecoglou has been seen, the recent stumbles are evident that there is much work still needed.
This past fortnight will have provided the new recruits to the squad with an opportunity to gel with some of their new teammates, and continue to become more accustomed to the style that Postecoglou has been taking steps to implement.
There is work to be done. Not simply to recapture the form that has been scintillating at times - especially at home - but also to take that a step further. There is the matter of integrating the new arrivals as well as account for the departure of a number of prominant first team regulars, such as Ryan Christie and Odsonne Edouard, in progressing the team for the future.
So the visit of Ross County could provide the springboard for that. Last month, Celtic were able to maximize this home advantage to string together a run of 5 home wins in all competitions on the bounce with an aggregate of 20-2 over that period.
The 2 league games at home have both resulted in 6-0 victories, over Dundee and St. Mirren.
Celtic will field a very different side from the one that last beat the Staggies
Ross County should not be underestimated however, as they have proven to be a genuine thorn in the side for Celtic in the relative short history of fixtutes between the two clubs.
Indeed, the Highlanders have won 2 of the past 3 meetings between the sides last season, knocking the Bhoys out of the League Cup at Celtic Park in November 2020, and further condeming the Celts to a 1-0 defeat up in Dingwall the last time the sides met in the league, back in February this year.
But this is a very different Hoops side now. The last time Celtic defeated Ross County it was in December 2020, and of the starting XI that took to the pitch that day, only Callum McGregor, David Turnbull and Ismaila Soro are available and even in the running for selection.
But the Staggies have also going through an extensive rebuild, with 16 players being let go and 12 brought in through the door during the last transfer window, and no doubt manager Malky MacKay will have sought to use the break wisely to create a cohesive group, as they seek their first league win of the campaign.
In Related News...
Dominic MacKay's all too brief spell as CEO is over after just 72 days
While on the topic of turnover and changes in football, there was even more unsettling news that broke on Friday, with the revelation that Dominic McKay has resigned from his post as Celtic CEO, citing personal reasons, just over 10 weeks after taking over in the role left vacant by Peter Lawwell, whose hand had been on the tiller for much of the past two decades.
Hopefully this news will have minimal effect on the dressing room itself, but it is hard to ignore the feeling of uncertainty that continues to swirl around the club in 2021.
Whenever the international break rolls around, it is always a degree of trepidation, that those who are required for their respective nation's will return unscathed. Sadly the news that noone associated with Celtic really did not want to hear was that Kyogo Furuhashi has returned from Japan with a knee injury that will require 3-4 weeks on the sideline, which is disappointing to say the least, especially in light of the stellar start he has made to life in Glasgow.
Furuhashi will miss the next 3-4 weeks with a knee injury
This could mean that there could be a rare start for Swiss striker, Albian Ajeti, following the departure of Edouard and Griffiths leaving fewer striking options, and the recent arrival of Greek striker, Giorgos Giakoumakis, which Ange Postecoglou has conceded there being a concern about, given the lack of match fitness of the new signing.
There may also be an opportunity for on-loan Benfica winger, Jota, to make his mark for the Hoops this weekend, especially with the confirmation that while James Forrest has made progress on his road back from the treatment table, this weekend's game will have come too soon for him.
On the more positive side of things, Postecoglou did however confirm that James McCarthy had made good progress with his fitness during the past fortnight and will be available for tomorrow's match.
There remains questions about a number of key positions though, especially in defence, where new arrival Cameron Carter-Vickers will be pushing for a start in the heart of defence, and Liam Scales could find himself in line for a debut also on the left hand side.
On the right, a much tougher choice to be made, between the in-form Tony Ralston and Croatian international, Josip Juranovic, who was played out of position on the left, when he made his debut in the last game before the international break,
What Ange Says...
While Friday's press conference was not an easy one for Ange Postecoglou, given the news about Furuhashi and McKay, the Australian took time to speak about the past month or so, with and honest assessment but also with optimism for the future.
Head to Head
P: 31 W: 20 D: 6 L: 5
Last 5 Meetings
Last Time Out
1 - 0
February 21, 2021