Simon Donnelly: Celtic will come back stronger

By David Walton

January 1, 2020

Frequent Celtic TV pundit Simon Donnelly has claimed that the club will come back from the winter break stronger, and has dismissed any Ibrox title-talk for now.

The fallout of the derby defeat has been predictably over the top. Neil Lennon stated after our 2-1 Parkhead defeat that there was “no panic” in the dressing room following the game, bringing some much-needed perspective to things (Celtic TV).

It’s also left us in an eerily similar situation to last season. After beating us 1-0 at Ibrox back in December 2018, Rangers then went out and signed Steven Davis and Jermain Defoe. Even the likes of Chris Sutton was believing then that Rangers were the title favourites (Daily Record).

Celtic lost at Ibrox in December 2018 before powering to the title (Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

The hype was real back then, and it’s the same this year. Therefore, when speaking to the Daily Record, Donnelly stated there was no need to hit the panic buttons just yet.

“Celtic have played a lot of football in Scotland and in Europe. They have a break now and it’s about how they regroup. I would expect them to be refreshed and revitalised – and come back stronger.

“They suffered defeat at Ibrox this time last year but they bounced back very strongly and they will need to do it again. There is a title race on their hands. Celtic will welcome it. Sunday doesn’t settle anything. There’s a long way to go. When you win these games you get confidence and people will see it as momentum shifting.

“But it can just as easily flip back again. Celtic have heard it before and know exactly what they need to do.”

A worrying lack of control in derby matches takes centre stage

Donnelly isn’t wrong. The talk was the same a year ago and Celtic came out and raced ahead of our rivals. However, at the same time, Rangers had dropped 18 points between the start of last season and the winter break. This year they’ve only dropped seven.

Celtic showed their class to win the league last season(Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The reason we shot to the front against them was because of our consistency combined with Rangers’ own inability to see the job through against lesser sides. Considering both teams took six points off each other in the derbies, that’s where Rangers’ downfall was.

Their consistency in the first half of the season gives us no reason to believe they can’t replicate it for the second half. Celtic have to simply keep doing what they’ve been doing against the lesser sides whilst turning up in the matches against Rangers.

Like it or not, we’ve had a worrying lack of control in this fixture for the majority of them over the last 12 months. The 1-0 and 2-0 defeats at Ibrox were lacklustre from Celtic. Our Betfred Cup win and Sunday’s encounter don’t need going over either. Even our 2-1 win over them back in March was marred by the fact they made a game of it with 10 men.

Neil Lennon needs to find a new plan to take Rangers down this season (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Like Scott Brown says, Celtic need to find a way to play this Rangers side (Scottish Sun). Our 2-0 win at Ibrox back in September was a beautifully organised performance from the Hoops. Our concentration levels were at their peak. We need to find a way to get back to that.

We can’t rely on them dropping any points to others in the second half of the season. It’s all about how we perform against them in the derbies, and hopefully we can step things up in 2020 both performance-wise and results-wise.