SPL football kicks off early today with CELTIC v ICT a 12.45pm kick off. Motherwell’s victory on Friday night means that Celtic have the chance to clinch the title in front of their own support – the last time being a midweek match in 2006 when they beat Hearts 1-0 courtesy of a John Hartson goal. The seven year itch, perhaps?
The epic semi final victory over Dundee Utd last week has taken some pressure off the Parkhead side, all talk before that game being about Celtic’s ‘Hampden Hoodoo’. They now have the chance of achieving the double, should they get a point today and overcome Hibs in the Scottish Cup Final.
The scorer of the winner last week, Anthony Stokes, has been offered a new contract, and should he start this afternoon he will be itching to get amongst the goals. Thomas Rogne may also return to first team action, having recovered from a leg injury. Although only a point is required, Celtic will want to win this match in some style in front of their own fans.
We also have the ridiculous sideshow of Neil Lennon’s touchline ban for saying naughty words! If Celtic collect their second successive SPL title this afternoon, Mr Lennon will have to wait until fifteen minutes after the final whistle before being allowed to go on the pitch and celebrate with his team. Who is going to time this? The fourth official? Double time for a Sunday? Will Neil Lennon be apprehended by Campbell Ogilvie should he join in his team’s lap of honour? This is a complete farce and the sooner the powers that be seriously get their act together, the better it will be for Scottish football.
Getting back to the game, Celtic have the considerable obstacle of Terry Butcher’s ICT to overcome, before they can think of any party commencing. This will be no straightforward task. The Highland outfit have had a superb season, with European football on the horizon and also the chance to get second place in the league if they string some good results together. They even had the temerity to win 1-0 at Parkhead earlier on in the season! This, therefore, is a team who have everything to play for. I am sure Terry Butcher would take great delight in putting the Parkhead party on hold!
Prediction: Celtic to take all three points and the SPL title!
The teams at Perth where ST JOHNSTONE v ROSS COUNTY at 4.05pm will be rooting for a Celtic win. This would open the door for them to close the gap on ICT and challenge for that precious European spot.
Liam Craig is suspended for the home side and Callum Davidson is injured. Ross County have Scott Boyd suspended and his place may be taken by Canadian, Andre Hainault. there is an interesting sideshow to this game also. This is regarding the position of County captain, Richard Brittain. He has already signed a pre contract agreement with St Johnstone but has now changed his mind and wants to stay at County for personal reasons. Watch this space!
It has been honours even in the three prior meetings this season, with one victory to each side and a 1-1 draw at Perth. St Johnstone’s recent form is far better than that of the Dingwall side, however. Ross County have lost their last three games, the most recent being a 4-2 defeat at Tynecastle in a match that they really should have won. Are they in freefall or can they get back to winning ways this afternoon? A defeat for them would surely end their aspirations for European football.
Prediction: St Johnstone to win and put pressure on ICT for that precious third place!
Written by Mark Williamson