International week is over and thankfully I can say Scotland have done us proud! I really hope for everyone concerned – the players, the management and most importantly the fans – that this is the start of some sort of recovery for the national team. Defeat in our last game at home against Croatia would not be a disaster in my opinion. Obviously it would be better not to go into the Euro qualifiers as bottom seeds – I don’t think we will anyway regardless of how we fare in the Croatian match.
It is back to the bread and butter of domestic league football and match of the day has got to be at Tynecastle where HEARTS v CELTIC in the early lunchtime kick off. This match has always been a traditional standout in the league campaign and one that many of the away support pencil into their diaries once the season’s fixtures are published. The fortunes of the two clubs are poles apart but this is still a tie that makes the mouth water.
Hearts, in administration, languishing in bottom place due to the fifteen point penalty imposed for that situation, have managed to accumulate an admirable tally of seven points thus far. (This would put them in seventh place were it not for the points penalty).
Champions elect, Celtic – I am not being flippant – are the flip side of Hearts coin. In rude financial health, the Parkhead side will commence their Champions League campaign in midweek at AC Milan. They have already sold out their three match CL ticket packages – adding more to the Celtic treasure chest.
They have brought in new signings to bolster their squad after the loss of Hooper and Wanyama. Only time will tell how weaker/stronger they are after these changes.
Most pundits think they are definitely weaker and there is a solid argument for that. I will reserve my judgement until the end of the season. Who will actually take the field of play today for Celtic today is the conundrum once again facing Neil Lennon. I believe the central defensive pairing he has in mind for midweek will start today.
Forrest and Mouyokolo are injured but new striker Teemu Pukki may take part in today’s clash. For some of the other starters, it is very much a guessing game. I would certainly rest Brown, Commons, Ledley and Mulgrew, only if the latter is not chosen as a central defender. Will Neil Lennon do that? Neil knows his players inside out and will be the final arbiter on those decisions.
Hearts, rightfully, have Jamie Hammil available, after successfully appealing against his ridiculous red card. They also have defenders Danny Wilson and Kevin McHattie back from suspension, although Ryan Stevenson is still injured. The availability of the aforementioned players is crucial for any chance Hearts may have of taking something from this game.
So how will the game go? One hundred mile an hour cup tie type football? Check. Flying, crunching tackles? Check. An assortment of cards – certainly yellow, maybe red? Check. A hostile but exhilarating exciting atmosphere? Check. Men against mainly boys? A definite check.
Even with the return of the Hearts trio already mentioned and with the backing of a vociferous and passionate support, I can’t get by the fact that the majority of the Hearts team are a young, inexperienced collective. Yes, they will be up for it but so will the men in green and white hoops. And so will Neil Lennon.
Prediction: sorry Jambos, you have done really well in picking up the points attained so far and I believe you will pick up many more – but not today. Convincing win for Celtic.