Livingston manager David Martindale has scoffed at the idea his team should be fearful of Celtic ahead of their trip to Parkhead this weekend.
Martindale’s stock rose back in January after a double-header against the Parkhead side. Livingston were able to take advantage of a self-isolating Hoops squad as they bagged a 0-0 draw at Parkhead against a weakened side. They then faced the first team days later at the Tony Macaroni Arena – bagging a fine 2-2 draw.
This is a fixture that has posed us problems consistently since Livingston were promoted for the 2018/19 season. They’ve bagged two draws at Celtic Park since then, and have incredibly halted us from winning in West Lothian on four occasions.
Thankfully, Saturday’s contest between the two sides will take place at Parkhead. Celtic have managed to rack up 3-1, 4-0, and 3-2 wins in Glasgow against Livi in recent years. However, Martindale has seen enough from their head-to-heads to laugh off the idea his men fear the contest.
As quoted by the Daily Record, the Livingston boss said: “We don’t fear anyone so there has never been a fear factor. We will give Celtic the respect they deserve at the weekend but we won’t go into the game in fear of them.
“They have been playing better recently but we just have to go there and try to impose ourselves. In the 0-0 game we were unlucky and could have won, although Celtic had out a depleted side that day. Again in the 2-2 game here, we probably should have had a penalty at the end.
“We will look forward to it and expect them to be stronger with the likes of Odsonne Edouard in the team, so we will have to be at our best.”
David Martindale right to feel optimistic; Celtic vs Livingston is no longer a banker
You can understand Martindale’s confidence. In addition to those two stalemates he managed against Celtic earlier this season, Livingston generally appear to have our number. Indeed, over the last three years, this has been one of the most frustrating fixtures on our calendar.
There are so many elements to this fixture that we need to improve in. We spoke yesterday about how interim boss John Kennedy has a glorious chance to end this particular hoodoo. But it’s important to look at why our struggles against Livingston have come about.
In the games at the Tony Macaroni Arena, the pitch has been a major factor. The speed of the ball and the way it rolls and bounces has constantly led to Celtic attacks breaking down anti-climatically.
At Parkhead, we’ve simply struggled to use our width to any great effect. Livingston consistently set up with two narrow banks and try to take a point. Getting the early breakthrough in this fixture is essential.
As is having James Forrest back. The impact of his return for matches like this simply cannot be underestimated. He’s proven himself to be the game-changer on so many occasions against Livingston. He’s netted two goals against Livi at Parkhead since their promotion, so hopefully he’ll be involved early on.
But this is by no means a banker. As much as we want to have a powerful end to the season, Livingston is no longer the certainty it once was. To get the points on Saturday, Celtic will need to be at their very best.