It’s odd that from the perspective of Celtic, a midweek game against Livingston is absolutely massive for Neil Lennon.
That’s where we find ourselves though, taking on David Martindale’s side twice in the space of a week. Barring any last-minute pitch issues (Daily Record), the Tony Macaroni will host the Bhoys tomorrow. Nothing less than a win will do.
After talking about Celtic’s matches in hand for what seems like forever, it feels surreal to actually be playing them at last. However, there’s obviously an added wrinkle to the match, what with all of the noise around the Bhoys this week.
We won’t go into the Lennon press debacle once more, because really, what more can be said? It was a spectacle which should have alarmed every Celtic supporter. Just another headache to add to the migraine that has been the Dubai story.
It does, though, add some extra spice to tomorrow’s match. Frankly, the actual act of playing football has acted as a sideshow to the soap opera theatrics which have dominated Scottish football discourse all season.
Yet, if Celtic are to turn this league season into something a bit more respectable, Lennon needs a win. By returning to the winning formula from December, our manager could buy himself some time and headlines for the right reasons. From a personal perspective, it’d be nice to talk about football again.
Celtic face in-form Livingston in must-win game for Lennon
With a depleted squad, the Bhoys mustered a gutless 0-0 draw at the weekend. At the very least, a clean sheet was a good effort against a side who have been scoring for fun over recent weeks. Still; it’s Livi.
We’ve analysed the display against Livingston; the lack of ideas up front, the needless, constant tinkering with formations. If our manager has any confidence in his convictions, he’ll go back to that diamond shape that was so successful, albeit for a few weeks.
Turnbull, luckily, has been available, as has Callum McGregor. It’s worth noting how many goals came from midfield in our December run. Neglecting that tactic entirely rather than adapting has meant we’ve lacked sharpness and enterprise in attacking situations.
However, you get the feeling that Lennon will attempt to justify the last two matches by using the same tactics from Hibs and the first Livi game. Because if Celtic win, it means Lennon was right all along, or something.
In the spirit of digging in relentlessly, Neil Lennon might be tempted to play Shane Duffy again. Our manager might just be that stubborn, even though Stephen Welsh absolutely deserves his shot.
There’s no guarantee, though, that Celtic will play a stronger squad. There’s a vast core of players who have only trained since Sunday or yesterday. These are players who won’t have seen game time since the start of the month. You’re genuinely risking injury there.
Reducing the gap, albeit incrementally
It’s hard to believe I’m writing this, especially given all of our lofty prior expectations. But here it is: Celtic absolutely have to win our games in hand to make this season less embarrassing.
Frankly, being behind Rangers at all is unacceptable, given our squad and resources. Even winning all of our games in hand means we’re still 12 points behind. If we can even get the gap down to a number you can count on two hands, it’d be something.
From Lennon’s perspective, he desperately needs to beat Livi in a trip that would be tough at any point. Last season, the Tony Macaroni hosted one of two of Celtic’s total league losses. At the risk of sounding like a hack, it’s a tough place to go.
To distract from the noise and get fans talking about football again, then Lennon needs to inspire some kind of revival. Perhaps his comments have galvanised the dressing room, and in fact, the players all think the endless commentary is unfair. Maybe, Lennon is reflecting the views of his squad? It’s unlikely, but you never know.
A trip to a stadium named after a pasta restaurant could provide the momentum for the back end of the season that Dubai was supposed to. That trip cost us four points and the respect of the community. It’s time to start making things right.
No pressure, then.