Michael Stewart on the Celtic area St Johnstone will try to exploit
Celtic are much-improved since last season, there’s no doubt; but Michael Stewart, a BBC Pundit and popular ex-player, believes there’s an area of weakness.
And it just so happens to be St Johnstone’s strength.
With the two teams squaring off at Hampden tonight, there’s a huge opportunity for Ange Postecoglou. It’ll be his first trip to the national stadium as Celtic manager. Meanwhile, Callum Davidson has a 100% record at Hampden from last season.
St Johnstone won both cup finals last season. And their method to do so, primarily, was balls into the box. With plenty of height and running in their team, it’s certainly a strength of the Perth side.
“It’s certainly not a game where you look at it and think [St Johnstone] have no chance. Celtic will fancy their chances, and rightly so. There’s no doubt they are improving under Ange Postecoglou, but I think they will give St Johnstone a lot of respect.
“They’ll know they are a properly dangerous outfit. It’s going to be a test.
“Regardless of who Saints play, they are always going to be a huge threat at set-pieces. And last season whenever a ball came near the Hoops’ box, it seemed to be panic stations.
“What I would say is that Celtic are not the same beast they were last year.
“You don’t get the same feeling this season. But that doesn’t mean Saints won’t try to exploit it. If Celtic can deal with that, they’ll be in a good position. And if they can win the game, they’ll be in a better one.”
BBC Pundit Michael Stewart picks out problem area for Celtic against St Johnstone
If Carl Starfelt was fit for this one, it would certainly have been a boost, from an aerial perspective. He’s winning a considerable 4.5 aerial duels per 90 [WhoScored?], alongside Cameron Carter-Vickers’ 4.4 [WhoScored?].
In terms of improving Celtic’s aerial influence, both have been excellent signings. Stephen Welsh, then, will have a job to do making up for Starfelt’s absence.
From last year, the improvement in this regard really is huge. But it’s still a worry. Especially against a team with threats like St Johnstone have.
Ultimately, Postecoglou will be hoping his full-backs can cut off the supply. If they can, it rids the Saints of their primary attacking tools. Whoever gets picked – presumably Ralston and Juranovic – they’ll be absolutely key today. They always are, but especially at Hampden tonight.
St Johnstone are far from being mugs. This is a difficult draw.
But Michael Stewart is right; if Celtic can stop the crosses, they can stop St Johnstone. We saw in the earlier meeting at Parkhead that their build-up play through the middle is practically non-existent. Smart defending and early intervention will make the difference.