A certain Rangers front man said that the league title was over a month ago. With Celtic 12 points behind Rangers with a game still to play, even the most faithful of the Celtic Park crowd would find it hard to argue a way back for their side.

Since draws at home to St.Mirren, St.Johnstone and a loss away to Kilmarnock , Rangers have found their ability to grind out 1 goal victories & to demolish weaker sides put through the tests. Last weekend saw Rangers win 2-1 at home to newly promoted Dunfermline. The match seemed to be a ‘back to business’ result for the Ibrox club on paper, however since then, there has been huge controversy. Sone Aluko has been banned by the SFA for his ‘dive’ which gave Rangers a penalty, and a 2-0 margin to see out the match.

Ally McCoist has come out in what has been described as a ‘Lennon style rant’ and has attempted to defend his player saying he is being accused of something he is not guilty of. Is this McCoist feeling the only pressure in the job since the first old firm of the season?To his credit he won that and since then has basically had the players carry the team in the same way Celtic did last year with Lennon. Craig Whyte has also said there won’t be an AGM and has asked the fans to buy away tickets to matches earlier, so the club can get the money  quicker.

So with the pressure being shown at Ibrox, how are Celtic fairing?

Well, Celtic have reduced what was a 12 point gap, to a mere 4 points. They have also changed what was a huge goal difference tally in Rangers favour to only 3 goals now after stringing five straight SPL wins together including a 5-0 home win over Danny Lennon’s St.Mirren. During these victories some of Celtic’s key players have found their form again.

Gary Hooper & Anthony Stokes have got 8 goals between them in the past 5 games and have been pests to every opposition they have encountered. In this form of 5 goals in 5, Hooper has picked up the player of the month, James Forrest has won young player of the month, and Lennon himself has won manager of the month. Also the greek striker Samaras has played a couple of matches were he isnt terrible, so even that is a plus. The biggest bonus for Celtic is the form of the young African, Victor Wanyama. The 19 year old is the best player at breaking up opposition attacks and man marking players out of a game , since the very man who picks him for the team every week. The Celtic skipper, Scott Brown has finally signed a new deal after months and months of friction about it. Another player who has earned a new contract is Daniel Majstorovic after some solid performances of late, and it could get better for the back line as Fulham’s out of favour 25 year old Algerian centre back Rafik Halliche is on trial and with Mikael Lustig signing in January, the much needed strengthening back 4, looks like it may after all be stronger. The return from injury of Emilio Izzaguire is a huge bonus of the club after missing all season due to an injury.

So with all these positive features for Celtic , the Glasgow side host a Hearts side whom are facing the prospect of not being paid in time for christmas, at home whilst Rangers face a tough trip to Pat Fenlon’s first game in charge at Easter Road, without their best player of late, Sone Aluko. The last time Celtic and Hearts played it finished 2-0  in the capital to Hearts although we will probably see a different result this time round.

Celtic are missing Commons & Ledley  through injury, and Adam Matthews is a doubt but have K.Wilson and T.Rogne back.

Celtic: Forster, Majstorovic, Matthews, Cha, K Wilson, Rogne, Loovens, Brown, Kayal, Wanyama, Samaras, Stokes, Ki, Forrest, Hooper, Zaluska, Bangura, McCourt, McGeouch, Filip Twardzik.

Hearts:  Kello, Hamill, Webster, Zaliukas, Mrowiec, Jonsson, Driver, Stevenson, Taouil, Templeton, Robinson, Skacel, Novikovas, Elliott, MacDonald, Obua, MacDonald.

By Simon Bienkowski

You can follow him on twitter via @simonbien

Advertisements