- Hoops Head For Crunch County Clash
~~~~~~~~~~ Official TC Match Preview ~~~~~~~~~~
Giorgos Giakoumakis' hatrick stole the show when these sides last met in March
Global Energy Stadium, Dingwall
Sunday, 24 April 2022
Celtic head north into the Highlands for their first League clash since the Split and seeking a 6th consecutive league victory, when they face one of this season's biggest surprise success stories, Ross County.
The Hoops will be desperate to put the disappointment of last Sunday's Scottish Cup exit behind them as they now face a sprint to the finish line in the league, with just 5 games remaining and 6 points ahead at the top of the table, Ange Postecoglou's Bhoys are on track to reclaim the Premiership title.
However, there is still a lot of work still to be done. And that begins on Sunday, where picking up all 3 points is absolutely paramount. Anything less could give hope to the chasing pack.
That is easier said than done however, as they will have to earn it against a team who have become one of the most improved sides in the league, and the Hoops will need to be fully switched on, ready and hungry to carry forward their league form, to pick up where they left off in the 7-0 rout of St Johnstone, a fortnight ago.
The Hoops come into Sunday's match having won all 3 of the previous encounters between these sides this season, but there are no shortage of memories of previous clashes where the Staggies have proven all too difficult opponant to simply dismiss or underestimate.
Skipper Callum McGregor knows all too well how difficult County can be
The Dingwall side began the 2021/22 season without a win in the first 10 games of the league campaign, and few would have been surprised that with just 3 points to show for their efforts at that stage, if the Staggies had ended up being one of the favourites for relegation.
Instead, it has been such a remarkable turnaround under the stewardship of Malky Mackay, that the home side has not only climbed out of the relegation cellar battle, they've maanged to catch and overtake the midtable pack, clawed to a top half finish, and now are looking at potentially securing European football for next season!
That's pretty impressive by any standards and they deserve full credit for those efforts.
A key part of the Stag's revival has been due to the form of Joseph Hungbo and the league's leading goalscorer so far this season, Regan Charles-Cook, and mention must also be made of the significant improvement in their defensive record since the Winter Break also.
Another big reason for this has been the host's home form. Indeed, since late October, Celtic are the only visiting side to depart the Highlands with all 3 points on the previous visit, back in December.
And even that required something pretty special. A second yellow saw Carl Starfelt given his marching orders, which left the Bhoys reduced to 10 men, and time running out. In a most remarkable finish, Anthony Ralston managed to nod home from a superb Tom Rogic chipped cross in the 97th minute to claim secure a dramatic 2-1 victory!
Anthony Ralston's late, late winner was the difference the last time Celtic visited Dingwall
By the Numbers
- The Hoops have won 13 of the past 14 League matches since Christmas, with the only blemish to that record being a 0-0 draw with Hibernian in February.
- Celtic need a maximum of 3 more wins to clinch the Premiership title.
- Celtic have won just 1 of the last 5 games where Kevin Clancy has been the Referee.
- County are undefeated at home since Celtic's last visit in December. Indeed, that result is the only defeat the Dingwall side have endured at home since October!
- This is the first time the Staggies have finished in the top half of the Premiership since 2016.
Celtic will be without Josip Juranovic for the 'next few weeks'
Ange Postecoglou has revealed that Giorgos Giakoumakis is fit and fully available once again for this weekend, after the Greek striker missed last Sunday's Scottish Cup semi-final. Considering the form he was in prior to that, including bagging a hatrick when these sides last met, last month at Celtic Park, it will be a welcome addition back into the squad for the title run in.
The Bhoys however will be without Josip Juranovic, with Postecoglou confirming on Friday that the Croatian International will be out for the 'next few weeks' as the injury he picked up last weekend hasn't really settled down yet, however there is enough encouraging signs that he could feature again, before the end of the season.
As for the Staggies, Kayne Ramsey returns from suspension, having sat out the past 2 games because of his reckless challenge on Tom Rogic at Celtic Park last month. However, goalkeeper Ashley Maynard-Brewer remains sidelined because of a broken nose, while Josh Sims is also a doubt.
~~~~ Head to Head ~~~~
P: 34 W: 23 D: 6 L: 5
Last 5 Meetings
W W W L W
Away v RCY
W L W W W
~~~~ 2021/22 Form ~~~~
L W W W W ~ W D L W W
CEL Away ~ RCY Home
W W W D L ~ D W W D D
W W W W W ~ W D L W W