Celtic face Hibernian tonight as the players pay the penalty for having a couple of weeks off. A mid winter break is all well and good, but the intensity of the domestic programme since it all kicked in again could be one of the factors in the ever increasing injury list.
Ryan Christie, James Forrest, Oddsone Edoaurd and Mikael Lustig are unlikely to feature tonight, while Kristoffer Ajer is suspended.
That should set alarm bells ringing as when Celtic have to make a number of changes they do struggle to find a rhythymn, and with tonights fixtures providing further opportunities, depending on other results, to increase the lead at the top of the table, perhaps it would be the right time to call on referees to start to provide protection for those few players we’ve got left who aren’t jostling for space in the doctors waiting room.
Only James Forrest can say his injury wasn’t down to an assault, the noble warrior over stretching his leg to open the scoring during the Battle of Perth and doing himself a sore one.
Assistant manager Chris Davies outlined the problems..
James is having a scan on his hamstring, so I’d be very surprised if he’s available on Wednesday; we’re not sure yet about the severity of it.
Odsonne had a bad knock on his foot and he’s a big doubt – the physios are looking at x-rays if need be. We’re hoping he can improve day by day.
Mikael is doubtful with an Achilles problem.
Ryan also took a bad blow to his hip so it’s about monitoring and assessing him; we’ll see how he is and make a call on him in the next 24-48 hours.
Disappointingly, the club appear to be content to lie back and have its tummy tickled rather than call out the lack of protection for players, but then again, its a feature of modern day Celtic to fail to protect not only its players, but its image, its supporters and as a result, its credibility.
Steve Clarke, Kilmarnock manager, has no such qualms about referees, calling them out for a lack of consistency..
You sit here on a Monday after a weekend where everybody talks about referees, consistency of refereeing.
“One player runs to the crowd yesterday to celebrate a goal and gets a yellow card. One player runs to the crowd to celebrate a goal and doesn’t get a yellow card.
Weah, reports indicate, wasn’t booked because no one in the crowd fell over, whereas someone did when Forrest ran to the crowd. They’re just making these rules up now.
“Five penalty decisions in one game, one correct, four wrong. There was an offside decision in our game on Friday night. Insignificant.
It wasn’t in a dangerous position, it was offside, given by the east stand linesman. Three metres onside. The length of this desk and more.
“Has he been pulled up about it, has he been shown it? Has he been told he was wrong? Probably not. Probably doesn’t know it’s a mistake. It has to be sorted.
“It would be nice to see people in authority start to address the situation.”
That prompted a response from Steven Gerrard, which was clearly inspired by the PR firm that controls him, and we look set for an interesting second half of the season as Celtic head towards an eighth consecutive title, and possibly a third consecutive treble.
Well, when I say interesting, I mean blatant abuse of the rules to try to help one club at the expense of all others.
John Fleming, the referee supremo, is presumably hding under the same table as the poor, persecuted John Beaton.
Don’t worry , Mr Beaton, we won’t forget that you have given up your liberty for the game you love, even of the police seem to have.
A victory tonight for Celtic, combined with an Aberdeen win at Pitttodrie over “rangers ” would put Celtic eight clear, and its unlikely that Celtic will lose three more games than their nearest challengers between now and May.
Expect Derek McInnes to be having a moan in the morning, although they do seem to have the upper hand over the Ibrox side this season, winning two out of three games, with the other drawn.
Dedryck Boyata is set to return against Valencia next week, but reports indicate that he is fit again now, so manager Rodgers might throw him into the fray tonight to get him back up to speed and get his customary first game back cock up out of the way.
Nir Biton looks set to return to the midfield, allowing Calum MacGregor to play further forward, and if Boyata isn;t selected, there will be a chance for Jack Hendry to give us something to talk about.
New bhoy Jeremy toljan should continue at right back, with Emilio Izaguirre keeping the seat warm for Keiran Tierney on the left.
Tierney has returned to training, which surprised a few people, but there is little prospect of him appearing in the team for a while yet.
He will be on light duties, as they say, doing little more than turning the lights on when everyone gets back to the changing rooms.
Scott Sinclair, Timothy Weah, Oliver Burke will probably form the front line, and thats kind of a shame.
After the St Johnstone game, Weah made a point of saying that before he came on he was analysing the game. As soon as he took to the pitch, he exploited what he had seen as a weakness, and the game was won. A lot of people missed him saying that, r thought nothing of it, probably because we’re not used to intelligent statements from footballers, but for me, what he said was probably the most revealing thing I’ve heard about any footballer and the way his mind works since charlie Nicholas said he preferred to go to Arsenal rather than Liverpool.
Whilst it could be said that Celtic are down to the bare bones for tonights fixture, its still a very strong side, and there isn’t a single player listed that wouldn’t be an automatic choice for our opponents should he be in their squad.
A fact which applies to any other team in the league.
Only complacency and the referees can prevent a third treble.
We seem to have removed any thoughts of complacency, but are doing very little to counter the offensive from the officials.
Celtic have finalised their squad for the remaining Europa league games. rules allow for three players to be added, although none can be removed.
The players added are Toljan, Weah and Burke, all of whom who have played for the first team, while Bayo misses out.
Some might point out that Leigh Griffiths remaining in the squad is a positive thing, but he’s there simply because he cannot be taken out.
Hopefully, Celtic will have enough of a cushion in the league before the Valencia games, as the Spanish side look to be improving almost on an hourly basis, and the two ties will take a lot out of our players.
Elsewhere, a story in the Border Telegraph caught the eye..
AN anti-sectarian charity has voiced its anger and concern after a vandalism attack at a local football club.
Vile anti-Catholic slogans were painted onto doors, signs and windows at Vale of Leithen’s Victoria Park ground.
And more than a dozen pro-Rangers phrases were also daubed onto the enclosure and dug-outs.
It is estimated the clean-up will run into several hundred pounds.
But it’s the repulsive sectarian slogans which have caused the most anger with some.
Dave Scott, director of Nil By Mouth, tours the country educating schoolchildren about the divisiveness and dangers of sectarian behaviour.
And he finds it hard to believe that it is happening on his doorstep.
Dave told us: “This is utterly moronic behaviour and you wouldn’t need two hands to count the IQ points of those behind it.
“As a Gala Fairydean Rovers fan I’ve been to Victoria Park on numerous occasions and know how hard the club’s committee and volunteers work to keep the Vale going and the last thing they need is having to clean up after mindless acts of vandalism.”
Sectarianism in the Borders is rare with minimal convictions when compared to other parts of the country.
And Nil By Mouth hope this attack in Innerleithen will be a isolated incident.
Mr Scott added: “As part of our Kiss Bigotry Goodbye campaign we will contact the club and offer to sponsor a game in the very near future to show that true football supporters love the game and hate this sort of nonsense.”
Vale of Leithen’s committee have already forked out thousands of pounds to bring their ground up to Lowland League standards.
And they regularly have to carry out clean-ups and repairs following minor vandalism.
But chairman Stuart Robertson admits this is the worst attack he’s witnessed.
Mr Robertson said: “This is the worst case of vandalism I’ve seen in all my years of being involved at the Vale.
“There is paint everywhere and we are going to have to clean it off the best we can before our next game.
“People work so hard at Vale of Leithen yet you get people who come along and undo all the good work.”
Police Scotland confirmed an investigation has been launched.
A spokesperson said: “Police in the Borders are investigating following a report of vandalism at a football club in Innerleithen.
“The incident took place between 9am on Friday, February 1 and 9am on Monday, February 4 in the Victoria Park area.
The cancer, once thought to have been eradicated, is spreading…
Don’t forget, place your bets on “rangers ” . Two penalities or more in two or more games, including cup games.
Or at least try to, I’m aware that several people have tried, but no one will take the bet…
On monday we had this picture to ponder..