Kilmarnock will arrive at Celtic Park on Saturday feeling the effects of the red cards picked up on Saturday.
Celtic have a glorious chance to get to within one point of the Premiership title this weekend. Victory over Kilmarnock will see Rangers needing to beat Aberdeen on Sunday. Failure to do so, and Celtic will have finally wrapped up their eighth consecutive Premiership title.
But it all starts with Saturday’s home clash against one of our toughest opponents in the Premiership.
Under Brendan Rodgers, Celtic only won two of six meetings against Steve Clarke’s side. At Parkhead, we managed to win just one of three games too.
Perhaps more positively, that was in our last meeting at Celtic Park. The Hoops bossed Clarke’s side out of Glasgow in a marauding 5-1 romp that really saw Killie taken to the cleaners.
But this Saturday, Celtic have a big advantage with the players Clarke is missing.
Four of the starting XI that lost 1-0 at home to Aberdeen on Saturday can’t play at Parkhead. Of course, the right to appeal is open for two of them, but as it stands, Celtic have a huge advantage.
A huge defensive headache
First of all you have two of Kilmarnock’s best defenders out this weekend. Stuart Findlay and Kirk Broadfoot consistently turn it on against Celtic, and have been ridiculously good at keeping organised against us.
The loss of Findlay in particular is a massive boost. He’s been one of the stand-out centre-backs in Scotland this season, and his one-to-one defending is up there with anyone in Scottish football. He’s caused us massive problems in the past that have gone unnoticed. It will be interesting to see how this is countered by Clarke, with no appeal open for Findlay due to receiving two bookings.
And just as big of a boost for Celtic is the fact that Rory McKenzie was also sent off in the closing stages of the Aberdeen game on Saturday.
McKenzie has been going through a bit of a renaissance this season. He’s really become a key creative source for Clarke’s side in recent weeks, and replacing him will be tough.
Meanwhile, Youssouf Mulumbu, who’s played in each of Killie’s last five matches, is ineligible. This, however, is something Clarke will have pre-prepared for, and he’s likely to go with a midfield three of Gary Dicker, Alan Power, and Aaron Tshibola.
But the defensive setbacks are going to be particularly difficult to cover. Alex Bruce and Calum Waters are perhaps the natural replacements, but this is a significantly weaker Killie side pitching up at Parkhead than would be the norm.
If Celtic don’t see them off, it will be a shambolic result. Fortunately, the stars are aligning nicely for us with the missing quartet.