- Paradise Awaits Celts and Stags
~~~~~~~~~~ Official TC Match Preview ~~~~~~~~~~
Giorgos Giakoumakis bagged a brace in the Scottish Cup win over United on Monday
Celtic Park, Glasgow
Saturday, 19 March 2022
There are just three rounds to be played before the League split, and everything remains very much in the balance, up and down the Premiership.
For Celtic, this means that they will be looking to build upon the current 3 point lead over their nearest competitors, with just the one match remaining ahead of the impending International break.
And that one match just happens to be against one of the most in form and consistent performing clubs of 2022 thus far, as Parkhead plays host to the visit of Ross County.
Ange Postecoglou's Bhoys performed admirably away at Tannadice in the 3-0 Scottish Cup win over Dundee United on Monday, but with the attention now returning to the League, it is essential to maintain that same sort of form with just 8 rounds left.
Nothing can be taken for granted, however, when Ross County come to town.
While Celtic have won both of the previous meetings between the clubs this season, the Highlanders have often proven to be a real thorn in the side of the Hoops, having come out on top in teo of the past five meetings overall.
No doubt Ange Postecoglou will be well aware of the dangers posed by the Staggies.
Not least of which because of the last time these sides met in December, the Hoops only narrowly departed Dingwall with all 3 points thanks to another piece of Tom Rogic magic, deep into injury time which set up Anthony Ralston to nod home and clinch a narrow 2-1 win.
Anthony Ralston scored in the last minute of injury time when these sides last met
The Staggies are one of the form teams in the Premiership right now and full of confidence, having won their last three games, including keeping back to back clean sheets.
This is the sort of form that has propelled them away from any such relegation talk and are very much in the conversation - along with six other clubs - for a possible top half finish this season.
Since the Winter Break it is beyond any doubt that County have gotten even better at both ends of the park; proving both clinical in attack and stubborn in defence.
This is in no small part due to the attacking flair of Joseph Hungbo and the League's leading marksman, Regan Charles-Cook - both of whom the Bhoys will need to pay close attention to, if they are to blunt the Highlanders' attacking edge.
With all this in mind, Celtic will need to be on the top of their game on Saturday.
Indeed, even when these sides battled it out in September - a match that finished in a 3-0 win for the Hoops - it was not as straight forward as that sounds, as the Celts had to show a lot of patience and perseverence to break down the stubborn visitors.
Despite having previously been eliminated from the Scottish Cup, there is little doubt that Staggies' boss, Malky Mackay, will have used the intervening couple of weeks to ensure his side are fresh and ready for the run in to the end of the season.
Albian Ajeti was the double goal hero when the sides met in September
Just the Facts of the Celts and Stags
- Celtic are undefeated in 32 domestic competitive games (includined both Cup and League matches) - a run that ironically began with a 3-0 victory over Ross County in mid-September.
- The Hoops have won 9 of the 10 League matches since Christmas, with the only blemish to that record being a 0-0 draw with Hibs, last month.
- The visitors have also been in great form since the Winter Break. After holding Sevco to a 3-3 draw in January, they've only lost once - a 2-0 defeat by Hibs.
- The Dingwall side have also scored the third most goals (43) of any team in the Premiership this season, ahead of Hearts (42).
- However, County have also conceded the second most (47) over the course of this league campaign, ahead of only Dundee (51).
- Although, this record requires closer inspection, as since the Winter Break, they've conceded just 11 in 10 league games - a significant improvement compared with the first half of the season.
- County come into this game on the back of registering consecutive clean sheets - the first time they've achieved this since August 2019.
James Forrest was on target against Livingston when the Hoops were last in League action
There could be a return to the squad for David Turnbull this weekend. The midfielder has returned to full training after a lengthy layoff with a hamstring problem that has kept the Scotland International sidelined since December.
And this could be a positive sign regarding the return of Kyogo Furuhashi, who was sidelined only a week or so after Turnbull with a similiar injury, which means that the Japanese striker could be back in action sooner rather than later also.
Regarding the starting XI, it is likely that Jota will once again slot in on the left hand side, while after scoring a brace against United on Monday, it could be difficult for to leave Giakoumakis out for this crucial match. Indeed, the striker's confidence will be even higher after the news of recall to the Greek national team due to his impressive current form for Celtic.
As for Malky Mackay's side, winger Josh Sims and midfielder David Cancola could both be available again after missing out on the Staggies' last match against St Mirren. County's elimination from the Scottish Cup in January means that the visitors were last in action a fortnight ago, which could have given the pair the necessary time to overcome their respective knocks ahead of this clash.
~~~~ Head to Head ~~~~
P: 33 W: 22 D: 6 L: 5
Last 5 Meetings
W W L W L
Home v RCY
W W L W W
~~~~ 2021/22 Form ~~~~
W W W D L ~ W W W L D
CEL Home ~ RCY Away
W W L W W ~ W L W L L
W W D W W ~ W W W L D