The area where Celtic will need to be laser-focused against Ross County today
We try not to deal too much in hypotheticals, but it’s tempting to imagine where we’d be if Celtic hadn’t overcome Ross County in Dingwall.
That win was massive. It was a watershed moment for Celtic under Ange Postecoglou, and that’s no hyperbole. Away in the Highlands, Celtic were a man down and desperate for a win late on. The Bhoys kept the heid, kept playing the way Ange told them, and when Tom Rogic found Anthony Ralston for a header, it sparked pandemonium.
The mental resolve that took, and the morale boost it had to have given; both huge. There was a lesson within that game, though, something that also dogged us when Ross County played us last season.
Much as Malky Mackay has made Ross County a more attractive team, they still heavily rely on set-pieces. It was a corner that unlocked Celtic in Dingwall that night, after all, letting Ross County equalise.
Statistically speaking, they’re one of the best teams in the Scottish Premiership at attacking set-pieces. This season, over one of every five goals they score comes from a dead ball opportunity [WhoScored?]. Though Celtic have improved in this regard, caution and attention are required here.
There are other dangers, naturally. After Celtic and Rangers, Ross County have scored the most goals from open play [WhoScored?]. Celtic have been excellent defensively, especially at home, and it says so much that only 6 of the 18 goals we’ve conceded have come from open play.
10 have come from set-pieces, however. Mackay will be more than aware of that fact, and it’s up to Celtic to mitigate it as a factor.
If Celtic can cut out Ross County dead ball threat, we’ll be in excellent stead
Let’s be clear – it’s not as though Ross County only score from set-pieces. It’s just that, in the last two seasons particularly, they’ve realised a problem we’ve had, and exploited it.
And it’s also not to say that this isn’t good advice for any game. That conceding goals from corners is a bad thing is hardly a revelation.
No, it’s that this is a specific weapon Ross County have in their arsenal. They know that coming to Celtic Park is a real challenge, given we beat them 3-0 early on in the season. No matter how good their form is, that remains the case. In those situations, though, it’s about pinpointing where the Bhoys can be got at.
In recent history, this was the one.
Ange has said that it’ll be about bringing our own energy and tempo to proceedings. That’s what we’ve done along this 30-game unbeaten streak, and it counts for both sides of the game.
Mitigating Regan Charles-Cook and Joseph Hungbo on either flank will be crucial.
Essentially, it’s about stopping the ball coming into our own box at height. That’s where Ross County’s main attacking strengths lie, and Ange Postecoglou will have had Mackay’s team well-scouted going into today’s game at Celtic Park.
It should be an absolute cracker, but keeping Ross County from exploiting a well-known Celtic achilles heel is absolutely vital.