Chris Sutton has been using his Daily Record column this week to talk about the necessity for Brendan Rodgers and his Celtic team to have a perfect end to the calendar year. The Hoops have been up and down lately consistency-wise and our former striker reckons that these next five games in the run up to the stopping of domestic action in Scotland is crucial.
Speaking on the revival in the UEFA Champions League this past week, which banished a hoodoo that had went on for some ten years or so, the big Englishman said: “Celtic needed that win over Feyenoord because their display at Kilmarnock six days ago was abject. As poor as I’ve seen in a while. I said in this column a fortnight ago that teams were losing the fear factor at the thought of playing Celtic and Killie just backed up my theory. Derek McInnes’ men went after Rodgers’ team in the second half and the simple truth is that my old team didn’t handle it. They stopped playing to their strengths, were outfought, outrun and undone. It was hugely worrying for them and it simply has to be a one-off.”
On this next run of games before the New Year and the halting of all football in this country, Sutton added: “Celtic have a crucial spell of five games coming before the mid-season shutdown and they have to try and be flawless. If they do that, with a game in there against Rangers on their own patch in the sequence, they’ll be odds-on again to return to Europe’s elite competition. The squad has been down to the bones in recent weeks and it’s going to be crucial to get some of them back.
“Cameron Carter-Vickers and Daizen Maeda seem ready to go for today’s game against Hearts and the likes of Liel Abada and Reo Hatate have still to return. Rodgers is going to need them all because Celtic have to up the gears. Perhaps without the demands of Europe in the second half of the season, that will happen, anyway. But nothing is a given and the champions certainly do not want to be handing any more encouragement to theRangers.”
The man who helped down our historic rivals in a 6-2 humbling that set the tone during his time at Paradise, he warned of the potential bounce they can get after Sunday, if they lift the League Cup. He continued: “If Philippe Clement and his team, as I expect, beat Aberdeen and get their hands on the League Cup tomorrow at Hampden, it’s going to give them another enormous boost after their win over Real Betis. Rangers will get a huge lift from that and it would put even more vigour into their bid to overhaul their old rivals.
“Celtic can’t affect what will happen at the National Stadium, but they can affect their own business over the next key period. That victory in Europe over Feyenoord proved they still have enough in the tank to get the jobs done and has also given them added belief they can compete at the highest level. But, if they don’t hit the heights on the home front, they’ll put themselves in real danger of missing out on the chance to have another go next season.”