When it comes to the title-race this season, Celtic have one big advantage regarding the layout of the fixtures.
It’s not something many have touched on. After all, we all play the same 11 teams three times before the split. But the truth is, Celtic have been dealt a decent hand compared to Glasgow rivals Rangers from the old fixture computer.
We all know that Celtic kick off the second-half of their campaign at home to Airdrie. After that, however, a plethora of games you fully expect Celtic to win are on the cards.
Before the Europa League last-32 meeting with Valencia, Celtic have four home matches out of five league fixtures. These are against St Mirren, Hamilton, St Johnstone, and Hibernian respectively. The only away game in that run is also against St Johnstone.
Football isn’t a game where you should be counting your chickens before they hatch. We understand that. But Celtic have to recognise the glorious opportunity that presents itself.
No back-to-back trips to Easter Road and Pittodrie. No dodgy midweek fixture on an astroturf surface. Just a nice run of fixtures that can really push Celtic on in the title-race.
Contrasting schedules upon returning
Compare that to Rangers’ schedule. The Ibrox side remain level on points having played a game more than Celtic. They kick off their second-half of the campaign with a routine enough Scottish Cup meeting at Cowdenbeath.
After that, however, they have a tough run. In the same stretch of games as Celtic, Rangers will be travelling to Kilmarnock, Livingston, and Aberdeen. Rangers haven’t won at any of those venues in the league this season.
There’s a massive chance that Steven Gerrard’s side struggle to take the points from those. A loss or a couple of defeats, and that Glasgow derby win for them will soon be forgotten about.
But Celtic have to make sure they’re doing their own job – winning games they should be comfortably. Rangers have shown an inability to deal with the heat that comes with sitting top.
But if Celtic can make a statement and use the fixture calendar to their advantage, they could build themselves a healthy lead. A lead that would have them full of confidence ahead of some of the tougher fixtures to come.
The Hoops have been gifted a golden opportunity to race away again here. Finally, and not before time, they just have to take it.