Saturday 20 October, 1230
St. Mirren Park
Celtic travel past Govan further west still to the frozen wastes of Paisley the super-misnomered Buddies. St. Mirren have had a solid start to the season and currently sit 7th in the league with 12 points but are only 3 points off of 2nd placed Hibernian such is the competition in the post-Armageddon SPL.
Danny Lennon’s side will be hoping to take advantage of his namesake Neil’s need to balance the returning international players and the small matter of a game in the Camp Nou on Tuesday. And certainly the injuries picked up by Forrest, Brown and Commons in the process of trying to help the hapless Craig Levein remain in the job are frustrating. As is the fact that players like Wanyama & Izaguirre only landed in Glasgow today. Still, at least none of them were flying Jet2 to Alicante, eh?
But that is life at a big and successful club. You have international players, Champions League football and titles to win. In fact, you could say Celtic v St. Mirren was the original Glasgow derby. But that would be crass and would ignore things like a) we had played other Glasgow teams before this and b) Paisley is not in Glasgow just like Govan wasn’t until 1912.
Still, why let facts get in the way of another headline grabbing drive to exploit the Sevco shilling, eh?
OK, so with that off my chest what about Celtic tomorrow?
Well, I am I am expecting Lennon (Neil) to take a cautious approach to the game and avoid risking any players with injuries. To this end, England squad member Fraser Forster will start in goals, assuming he’s not been on the Nytol that is.
Across the back I can see Lennon going for Lustig, Ambrose, Wilson and Mulgrew with the latter getting the nod at left-back despite being regarded as a poorer player than Danny Fox by Craig Levein, which in many ways tells you all you need to know about Graham Hogg’s nemesis.
In a midfield four we have a number of decisions to make and if fit I would like to see Lennon give Kayal 90 minutes. The midfield area is a particular strength of ours and we need to see the squad players come in here and support those who have hectic weeks. Although I would protect Wanyama for Tuesday Lennon may start the Kenyan Fenian given the venue and the battle expected. Samaras should be wrapped in cotton wool for Tuesday so Paddy McCourt and Dylan McGeogh could get the wide berths as we seek to get behind what will be a [cliche alert!] disciplined and organised St. Mirren team.
Up front, Hooper will be fresh from a break and with Miku itching for a start it will be interesting to see how Hooper performs with the on loan striker in a more orthodox 4-4-2.
Of course, all of the above could be crap such is the strength of the current squad but I’d certainly like to see Lennon focus on Tuesday night. We have a chance to progress in Europe and will win the league. Therefore, the risk factor has to be weighted towards ensuring we as strong as we can be for Barcelona. And remember, probably our best domestic performance of the season came in Inverness when we played what was regarded as a skeleton side.
That said, sandwiching a tricky away trip to a frozen Paisley between two internationals and what will be our toughest game of the season means that I wouldn’t be surprised to see the home team grab a share of the spoils tomorrow. And you know what, I think I’d be ok with that in the circumstances.
ETims prediction: St. Mirren 1-1 Celtic