Celtic 2—1 Ross County.

Defence against attack. Fifty goals scored. Nine points clear.

Kyogo missed the two best chances of the first-half. After a quarter hour, he got on the end of a cross and the ball floated harmlessly over the bar. Carter-Vickers had taken a pot-shot form twenty-odd yards. The keeper, Laidlaw spilled the ball and Kyogo was unable to get on the rebound. Then almost on the half-hour mark, Kyogo was played clean through by Matt O’Riley. The Japanese forward put his shot past the post.  

We looked at the team selection and then we look across the city to see if the worst team in Champions League history are due another penalty in Paisley. I was on the terracing, all those years ago, when Mo Johnston was in the team and there was a miracle as Love Street. The other Glasgow team will need to do something similar. There’s still that element of doubt.

Carter-Vickers captains the team before heading off the World Cup. Jenz comes in but goes off before half-time with a head knock. Carl Starfelt coming on. I’ve not being a fan of the Swede, but neither was I a fan of Taylor, who has been exceptional. Alexandro Bernabei started and played 85 minutes.  The young Argentinean looks a good prospect. He got a bit of a chasing at Hearts and he was hooked at half-time at home last week against Dundee United. But that was good management. He’d been booked. He lost out as you’d expect to long balls played out to Jordan White. But, one run, in particular from our half in to the last third of the field, took out most of the Ross County midfield. There’s nothing wrong with his attacking play.  

Hatate and O’Riley provide their usual elegant pairing. Further forward, Sead Hakšabanović got booked just before half time in a first half Ross County tried to frustrate. David Munro, the referee helped with some strange decisions. Laidlaw, for example, picking the ball up after dropping it as his feet. And O’Riley, as he did later in the game, making a good tackle in the box, and taking the ball off a Ross County player, but is penalised. But the VAR decision, wasn’t even the referees. I’m not sure Matt O’Riley was in the box. But three Celtic players seem to have got the job done of ushering the ball out and into attack.  Callum Johnson’s challenge meant the ball bobbled up and stuck his arm.

Penalty and job done for David Cancola and Ross County. They’re a goal ahead after 50 minutes in a game they never threatened to score.

Celtic poured forward looking for an equaliser. David Turnbull’s shot from outside the box the pick of the bunch.

Ten minutes after County’s VAR penalty, Celtic had a shout for one which was ignored. Ralston taking a dunt in the back inside the box and going down. It would have been soft. But it wasn’t given.

It didn’t affect the final score. Reo Hatate created the two goals. His turn inside the box was superb and just as he looked as if he was going to shoot he drifted toward the six-yard box and cut it back. David Turnbull took a touch and nutmegged the keeper. There was still thirty minutes of the match left to get a winner.

Eight minutes later,  Sead Haksabanovic got us it with a classy finish. Hatate played him in with a cushioned pass in a one-two movement. The Montenegrin had lots of defenders in front of him, but he bent the ball, almost in slow-motion inside the post.

This was his last action as Postecoglou replaced our front three. Giorgos Giakoumakis had a couple of chances when he came on and can think himself unlucky not to score. Jota and Abada also had decent efforts on goal.  Ross County didn’t create anything in the last twenty. They didn’t create anything in the other seventy, but they were given a goal. It didn’t prove to be enough. Celtic are in a good place. Champions and Champion elect.

Motherwell 0—4 Celtic.

Motherwell ran us close recently at Paradise. But at Fir Park, in a cup-tie, Liel Abada popped up just before half-time to score—yet again—from inside the six-yard box to put us ahead from a Greg Taylor pass. It wasn’t game over, but game over.

Greg Taylor had been guilty of passing when he’s been in good positions to shoot. But that’s being picky in a free-flowing Celtic attacking team in which Benjamin Seigrist didn’t have to make a decent save. Mooy who, dictated much of the game from his advanced role, played it back in. Juranovich had another shot. Kelly palmed it into Abada’s path. He found the corner of the net.

The Israeli put the game beyond Motherwell at the start of a second-half in which the home team saw more of the ball, but left spaces at the back for Celtic’s pace to exploit. Ping-pong in the box. O’Riley shot was pushed out by Kelly.

His compatriot Hatate, showed him how is should be done with the third goal of the night. Juranovich got to the touchline. His pass was inside the six-yard box. Hatate rolled the defender and as the keeper came out he dribbled past him. A moment of brilliance.   

Abada had what’s called an assist in the fourth goal. In other words, he’s looking for his hat trick from inside the box. His shot hits the inside of the post and rolls across the six-yard box. Kyogo pounces. He’s missed chance after chance. And his goals have been as rare as a Celtic clean sheet. The first in eight games.

Siegrist, our back-up keeper, takes that bit longer than Hart to play it out. While that makes for better possession, it also means when Celtic get caught losing a goal is a distinct possibility. Jenz, for example, tried to play the ball up the line and his pass was blocked. Shields played the ball to the penalty spot. McKinstry ballooned it over.

Kyogo had a hat-trick of first-half chances, missing from inside the six-yard box, from outside the area, but hitting the bar and the ball dropping down from Abada, who also failed to score. The Japanese forward was also played in by Mooy, who’d an excellent first-half, but he failed to go around or past Kelly. Kyogo started the second-half with another fluffed shot.  

Slick Celtic in such form it seems the only team that can beat them are themselves. Haksabanovic makes you forget Jota is injured. What another brilliant buy. The Montenegrin international can play anywhere and he’s a joy to watch. Giakoumakis came on with ten minutes to go and went down injured. That’s a worry in a game that went to plan.  

Carter-Vickers played a shocking pass inside our box, but the game was over by then and we were 4—0 up.  As we’ve seen in Europe, better teams will punish you. But our European adventure looks over barring upsets to the equivalent of  the shock value of St Mirren beating Celtic. If we play like this against Hearts we’ll be too good, but Kyogo really needs to start scoring more than he misses. Here’s hoping.

Celtic 2—1 Motherwell

Not a game to remember. But at least we won. Motherwell started with attacking intent, but then the game fell into a pattern we’re familiar with as they fell back to ten men behind the ball. We were bullied and lost in Paisley to corners and free-kicks. Another familiar pattern.

Jota missed a good chance early on, but Kyogo got an early goal in sixteen minutes to settle the nerves. But it was more like O’Riley’s.  McGregor had made a bursting run. He fed Jota wide. He whipped the ball in, and O’Riley outjumped the defender near the penalty spot. Keeper, Liam Kelly, made a save, but the ball may have been going in. Kyogo made sure. One up and coasting.

But the nerves were still there. McGregor was first to a cutback from Jota around the penalty spot. His shot was tame. A good chance missed. Twenty-five minutes in and we’re still waiting for that second.

Ricki Lamie was cautioned for hauling Kyogo back out at the touchline. We’re getting closer to half-time.

Reo Hatate ballooned a shot over the bar from the edge of the box, and later hit the inside of the post. He was getting closer. We were edging closer. Barry McGuire halved him in two. O’Riley and Josip Juranovic lined up to take it. The Croatian’s shot came off the bar with the keeper beaten.

Two minutes later, Juranovic scores an own-goal. A corner came in and out again, and he chested the ball back to Hart. But the keeper had come out of his goal and it trickled over the line.  

Deflated. The first half ended with Jota slating a ball over and around the six-yard box No takers. Juranovic tries his luck, but gets nowhere.

Motherwell started the second-half as they did the first, having more of the ball. Their main threats come from free-kicks and corners. Their first corner of the second-half flashes across goal. No takers.

Kevin van Veen misses a good chance. Joe Hart came out to claim a cross ball. Sondre Solhom Johansen backs into him and he falls to the ground. The referee plays on.

Twenty minutes in and Kyogo looks for a penalty after colliding with a defender and going down in the box. Not given and would have been soft. A later effort from a corner was clear handball and was of the stonewall variety. Not given.

Twenty-two minutes into the second half. Short corner (again), played to Reo Hatate at the edge of the box. He’s pummelled one against the inside of the post in the first-half. Here he picked his spot and fired home from twenty-five yards.  

Daizen Maieda was anonymous. He was taken off after half-time. Kyogo also had one of those games. He scored the first. Was unlucky with a header that went the wrong side of the post after Hatate’s superb strike in the first-half. But missed a sitter from three yards when we were 2—1 up.

Then two minutes later, a superb defence-splitting pass from substitute David Turnbull had him running in on goal. He looked to get past Kelly, but the keeper got his hand on the ball. Another sitter from Kyogo.

A nervy last 15 minutes to the game with five Celtic substitutes coming on.  Sead Haksabanovic replaces Kyogo and with almost the last kick of the ball, the Montenegrin had a pop at goal. Kelly flapped at the ball. Fellow substitute, Liel Abada missed from two yards.

Reo Hatate with the winning goal and a good shout for man of the match performance, but almost sold the game. His pass back was anticipated by Ross Tierney. He was running in on goal. Callum McGregor with a professional foul brought him down. Twenty-five yards from goal, free kick, and a red card. McGregor took one for the team. He misses the next league match against St Johnstone.  Josh Morris’s feeble attempt flies over the bar.

Celtic scored three goals, including one for the opposition. St Mirren’s game plan was nothing new. We see it every week in Scotland. Defeat was. The game should be finished, but the referee adds five-minute’s injury time. Oliver Abildgaard makes his Celtic debut along with Aaron Mooy as Postecoglou looks to shut the game down. We see it out. Next up, R.B. Leipzig on Wednesday. We need to be better.    

Shaktar Donetsk 1—1 Celtic

Celtic could have been a goal up inside sixty seconds in a whirlwind start. We dominated much of the game. A ball from O’Riley for Kyogo to run onto. His shot was saved by the keeper’s legs. A minute later, Greg Taylor flashed a ball across goal with no takers.

 Celtic had most of the ball. We pinned Shaktar back in their own half, until they scored an equaliser Then they kept possession better. But in the second half, Celtic created all the chances, but couldn’t find a winner their play deserved.

Sead Haksabanovic was a surprise starter. He won an early free kick. The Montenegro international helped create the first goal for Celtic. A long pass by Juranovic picked Haksabanovic out. He moved into the edge of the box and held the ball until Hatate overlapped. Reo’s shot was scuffed off Bondarenko but found its way past the keeper, with Kyogo following in, but not taking a touch in case he was credited with offside.

Celtic kept pushing.  Anatoli Trubin, the Shaktar keeper, was lucky to get away with a pass back. Kyogo almost catching him and putting the ball into an empty net.

Moritz Jenz came closest to getting Celtic’s second. A ball into the box, flicked on and Jenz steadied himself before firing the ball against the legs of the keeper.

Two minutes later and Shaktar hit Celtic on the counter-attack. Thirty minutes in and their first chance they score. A ball played inside Juranovic. Mykhaylo Mudryk cuts into the box and fires in off the underside of the bar. Our midfield and defence ghosted.  

It could have been worse. Three minutes later Shaktar have a goal chopped off (both offside and the ball was out of play). Former Celtic signing Marian Shved wasn’t to know that. He found himself on the penalty spot, missed the ball, but with his second strike put it past Hart.

Celtic’s sticky spell continued onto the last fifteen minutes of the first half. In the second half, Maeda comes on to replace Haksabanovic. And the Japanese international had two chances to win the game, neither of which he took. But his work rate caused their defence problems.

Jenz made a stupid challenge and got booked. Matt O’Riley arrived in the box and connected with a Jota cross, but the keeper was untroubled.

Jota, after a quiet first-half was becoming more influential. He nearly scored a wonder goal. Robbing a defender outside the box, he bobbed and weaved in past defender after defender and when the goal opened up, scuffed his shot, and his deflected shot winning only a corner.

Turnbull and Mooy came on with twenty minutes remaining. Shaktar even at that stage looked to be content with a point. Giorgos Giakoumakis on for Kyogo, had the chance of the game. The Greek striker had already knocked a ball down for Maeda, who should have scored, but his chance was one he expected to score. Greg Taylor, who had a fantastic game, played him in. The ball fell perfectly. Giakoumakis set himself and bent the ball, but not enough it curved past the post.

In injury time, he almost got the winner. Challenging the keeper, the ball bounced off Giakoumakis’s shoulder and towards the line, but a defender cleared.  A point away is usually a good return, but here we deserved more.

Ross County 1—4 Celtic.

We’re in the draw for the next round of the League Cup and it’s Motherwell away. There’s always that anxious wait to see if we get Rangers.

Celtic hit the bar twice in quick succession. A Welsh header from a corner and David Turnbull’s free-kick hitting the defensive wall and then the bar.

But we also scored two goals in the first half. An early scare with Ross County almost scoring in sixty seconds from a ball knocked on from a shy.

Calum McGregor got our opener. He’d held his hands up to show he was unmarked from a corner. Turnbull picked him out. His shot was deflected but went in. Twenty-one minutes gone. A changed Celtic team with Liel Abada and McGregor the only players to remain in the team that beat Dundee United on Sunday. Abada patrolled his usual right-wing beat, but McGregor played a more advanced role, with Aaron Mooy dropping deeper and taking the ball from defence.

Giorgos Giakoumakis missed Sunday’s game. He’d a point to prove, and he usually does, coming up with a goal. He’d a bit of a tussle with Alex Iacovitti and took a few knocks going down injured after a poor first touch. But he got his goal near the half hour mark. Tony Ralston was the provider. A lovely touch on the edge of the box (the full back was in the striker’s position) and he laid it off. Giakoumakis dipped his shoulder and took the ball into his right foot and curled it into the bottom corner. Like the United match, it looked like game over. The Greek striker hobbled through the remainder of the half. He was unlucky with three headers, the last one on the brink of half-time. Three goals for him the season. He’s always looking for more.

Ross County had more of the ball in the second half, but Celtic still dominated. The goal the Staggies scored in sixty-seven minutes was a shocker for the Celtic defence. A long punt from the keeper, Eastman, into the Celtic box. Substitute, Carl Startfelt came on for Welsh, who went off injured. The Swedish International was too easily beaten in the air by Jordan White. Iacovitti took time off from fouling Giakoumakis to wander into the six-yard box and stoop down to header it into the goal. Moritz Jenz was nowhere.

Daizen Maeda restored the two-goal lead five minutes later. McGregor had a shot from the eighteen-yard line spilled by the keeper. Maeda was there to pounce.

Sead Haksabanovic came on for Maeda. His first dribble, he ghosts past Johnstone, his touch and cross of the ball nearly gave us another goal. Even in the short time on the park he looks a class addition.

Just on full time, James Forrest nicked a fourth. Ralston made it (two assist and McGregor having one) with a cutback to Forrest in the box. He too looks sharp.

The worry for Celtic is we still get bullied by big centre forwards. But this is less of a worry in Scottish football because we have more of the ball. In Europe, teams don’t go back to front. Transitions and losing the ball at the back and midfield is the big worry. But out team, our squad is lighting fast.

Team that will play against Rangers: (my guess). No real shocks. Hart, Taylor, Juranovic, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Hatate, McGregor, O’Riley, Jota, Kyogo, Maeda.

I’m no fan of Startfelt. Jenz has strolled through a few games, but I think Postecoglou prefers Starfelt (what do I know?) Similarly, Reo Hatate edges out Turnbull. The Japanese player is quite simply wonderful and looks to have extra time on the ball, which can be a problem when he loses it. Kygo is on fire. He’ll start ahead of Giakoumakis (that is no longer a debate). Liel Abada scored a hat-trick at Tannadice. He’s made a good case for starting, but Maeda’s closing down work and his pace means he’ll start ahead of the young Israeli. Postocoglou has taken Maeda wherever he goes and obviously rates him highly. Jota, certain started and ace in the pack. Forrest is down the pecking order. Hasbanovic—we’ll wait and see. I guess he could be another cracker. Celtic to win 4—1 against our Glasgow rivals. HH.

In Ange we trust.

As the song goes, Celtic, Celtic, that’s the team for me. I’ve no great interest in what other teams do or who they play or sign—apart from Rangers.

Even if it’s tiddlywinks, I want Rangers to lose. They’d won the league by 25 points, and stopped us winning the ten. One of the highlights of the season was watching Ryan Kent miss a sitter in the closing minutes and Aaron Ramsey missing that penalty. I joked that my pal’s dad had died, but at least he’d lived long enough to see that. It was a season when Rangers’ fans felt they did well reaching a European final and winning the Scottish Cup.

But when they were giving out awards it was Ange Postecoglou picking them up. Hard to believe, we were chasing Eddie Howe as our new manager and it just seemed a matter of getting the deal over the line. He walked away, citing concerns about having concerns. Ange Postecolgou came in. I’d never heard of him. Most of us agreed he’d need time to rebuild. He didn’t cite concerns about not having his own backroom staff. He was willing to work with the dross that was there. We’d give him time. I was even uttering strange things like he’d have at least a season, or maybe two, in which he wouldn’t be expected to do much, and spluttering into my pint that Rangers were still shite. I was hoping somehow we’d turn it around. In our pre-season games there was little evidence that would be the case. In the qualifiers for Europe, and in Europe, generally, we were out of our depth against mediocre teams (like us).

We lost to Hearts at Tynecastle, Kyogo came on as a sub, played wide, but did nothing of note in the few minutes on the pitch (shades of Henrik Larrson coming on as a winger against Hibs). We were chasing Rangers in the league. It was a race I didn’t expect to win. But the equivalent of muscles-memory of the mind sets in. Odsonne Edouard left for Crystal Palace. I was glad about that. Ryan Christie to Bournemouth. Kristoffer Ayer went to Brentford, where he’d be reduced to talking a good game. He was fine when he didn’t have to defend.

Now here we are again. I’m far more optimistic. We’ve signed seven new players, which include mainstays, Jota and Carter-Vickers. The Portuguese winger dazzled last season and this pre-season. Carter-Vickers in pre-season hasn’t looked great. He got bullied for the second goal against Legia Warsaw, for example, losing a bread-and-butter header I’d expect any centre-half to win and getting turned far too easily. That’s nit-picking. He too has been a success. But you’re only as good as your last game is a truism.

Joe Hart has been a great signing. He’s made vital saves. He’s our number 1, keeper. But we know he’s going to lose stupid goals, when he’s trying to play sweeper-keeper. It’s just a matter of how many and against whom. Teemu Pukki almost caught him out in the friendly match against Norwich. The ex-Celt is not the quickest, and not the best, as we all know. Hart might beat him in a footrace, but I’d rather not find out during a match. Joe Hart, vice-captain, Certain starter.  

  Benjamin Siegrist, of what I remember him, was decent for Dundee United. He’ll push for the number-one spot. Uncertain starter.   

Greg Taylor started against Norwich. I wasn’t a fan of the former Kilmarnock full back. But over last season I’ve come to appreciate him. He wasn’t Kieran Tierney. Emilio Izaguirre when he first came into the team was also a revelation. Taylor is not at that level. And now he has serious competition. *Certain starter when season begins.

Josip Juranović will not be going over to play on the left as he did at Ibrox because Ange doesn’t trust the likes of Liam Scales, for example, to do a job. The Croatian has established himself as our first-pick right back. Certain starter.

Scottish international, Anthony Ralston—and I never thought I’d say that without laughing—is backup. But he too will be pushing for a starting spot. Uncertain starter.

Argentinian, Alexandro Bernabei, I think looks to have more attacking flair than Greg Taylor. *Certain starter as season progresses.

Celtic supposedly paid around £6 million to Tottenham for Cameron Carter-Vickers. A snip based on last season’s performances (and not this pre-season). Certain starter, under Ange.

I heard Carl Starfelt was injured while on international duty with Sweden. He’d miss the start of the season. I wasn’t bothered. Like Ajer, Starfelt is decent when he doesn’t have to defend. He’s too easily bullied by muscular forwards. Most of the goals we lost last season came from free kicks and corners. The most common argument I’ve heard is we’d the best defensive record in the league. We also won the league. Therefore Starfelt must be better than mediocre. He isn’t. But he’s good enough for now. But Ange trusts him. Certain starter.

Christopher Jullien is still at Celtic. For how much longer? He picked up the captain’s armband in the pre-season friendlies. But he’s an uncertain starter. If any club fancies him, he’s free to go.

Back-up to Carter-Vickers and Starfelt has been, until now, under-twenty-one Scotland captain, Stephen Welsh. He’s no better than Starfelt, and often worse. Uncertain starter.  

 Moritz Jenz from Lorient is we hope better than Starfelt and will leapfrog Stephen Welsh into the team. Loan deals like Jota and Carter-Vickers gives us a chance to try before we buy. Uncertain starter, for now, but his time will come. And if he’s good enough, we’ll keep him. Win-win. Uncertain starter, for now.

Callum McGregor, the Celtic captain, and Scottish Player of the Year plays most games. Simple. Never stops. Certain starter.  

Reo Hatate came into the team and started with a bang. Goals against Rangers are often a great way to introduce yourself to adoring fans. He didn’t disappoint. But the end of the season he was disappointing. He was never rubbish, but didn’t shine. Pre-season he’s looked at back to the level he was when we hammered Rangers 3—0, and that old joke, they were lucky to get the nil. This was the pivotal moment in the season, when we leapfrogged them in the league. We did it in Celtic style. Hatate was the man. Certain starter.

Matt O’Riley played in that number-ten role when Tom Rogic didn’t. Usually, they switched like doppelgangers, with one getting sixty minutes, the other thirty minutes, or thereabout.  A terrific acquisition. He has added goals to his game. Certain starter.

David Turnbull played every game for Celtic under Ange, until he got that injury, just before the League Cup final, which Kyogo won for us. Turnbull has had a good pre-season, scoring two goals. Sharp and strong. Goal scorer. Ready to step in and stake a place. Uncertain starter, for now.

  Daizen Maeda starts most games under Ange. He’s played at centre-forward, most recently when Kyogo was taken off against Legia Warsaw and Giorgos Giakoumakis wasn’t available for selection. But Ange prefers to play him on the wing. Usually it’s the left wing. His pace troubles defences, but his closing down work is also a stand out. He scores goals. Certain starter.

Jota has a problem when Maeda starts on the left, because he’s pushed to the right wing. Maeda is all pace. Jota is an old-fashioned winger. He ties defenders in knots and scores for fun. It was a long and protracted deal with Benfica, with shades of the Eddie Howe haunting us.  Bargain buy at £6 million. Certain starter, on right or left wing.

Kyogo Furuhashi hit the ground running. Apart from his injury, he’s not stopped running since. His speed of thought and movement would give any defence problems. The first and best of the Japanese internationals to arrive. Certain starter.

Giorgos Giakoumakis was the opposite of Kyogo. He hit the ground not running. Then he took the ball off Juranovic (I think it was against Aberdeen) in the last minute and missed a penalty which cost us two points. Without actually being Albian Ajeti (or Pukki), he’d all the makings of a dud. But he scored twenty league goals. When Kyogo was out, we didn’t miss him. The Greek international did the business. Uncertain starter, for now.

Under Neil Lennon’s tutelage James Forrest could do no wrong. He was brought through the ranks. Made his debut in season 2009-10.  He was hitting twenty goals a season and has more Celtic medals than anyone at the club and has now signed a new contract. It’s hard to believe he’s not fifty-five. But for the first time in his Celtic career he’s not an automatic pick. Jota is ahead of him. Arguably, Liel Abada is also ahead of him. Uncertain starter.

Liel Abada scored a stack of goals and assists. Let’s for a minute consider the way he sneaked in behind the Rangers’ backline and scored at Paradise. Even now, it brings a smile. He’s ahead of Forrest, but not Jotta or Maeda. He will get game time, most often as a substitute. Uncertain starter.  

Aaron Mooy plays for Australia. Ange knows him and brought him in. Whether he is to replace Tom Rogic or to sit in as a defensive midfielder for Callum McGregor is unclear. Maybe a bit of both? I’ve not seen him play. Uncertain starter.  

 Yosuke Ideguchi (Guchi) the Japanese internationalist picked up an injury early in his Celtic career. He’s not been able to find a spot in the congested Celtic midfield. A very decent showing in our pre-season friendlies. Uncertain starter.

James McCarthy was said to have struggled in training when he arrived. Might be lies. He has struggled to get into the Celtic team. Not sure he adds much. But that might change, as it did with Giakoumakis. He’s been brought on very late in pre-season games, usually to replace McGregor. Uncertain starter.

Mikey Johnston, remember him? Tricky winger, could go outside, could go inside? Scored goals? Had that wow factor? Looked rotten in pre-season matches. He’s still got an outside chance, but he’s fading fast.

Scott Bain. Backup keeper, for the backup keeper. Ball boy. Uncertain starter.

We’ve got enough to win the league. Games against Rangers will decide the title. They bullied us in two games last year, both of which we lost, one, admittedly, in extra-time. We can’t let that happen again. The real beauty of winning the title is no qualifiers for the Champions League. £40 million in the bank. We’ll play some fantastic teams. We’ll take some terrible doings, but it’s not that I don’t care, the glory is being there and we’ll get better. We won’t win the Champions League and we won’t win the treble. But I’ve been wrong before. I didn’t imagine winning the league this time, last season. Eddie Who?

Manager of the Month, Ange Postecoglou.

Ange Postecoglou wins Manager of the Month award again. If he picks up the same award at the end of April then it’s kerching and £40 million Champions League money guaranteed. The question arises, would you take a draw at Ibrox? Obviously, after say 89 minutes and two goals down and I’d say, aye Ange, go for it, take the draw. But life and fitba doesn’t work out like that.

Last time we were in Govan, Edouard started up front. As we know, he’d scored some great goals against Rangers, but missed some complete sitters. He’s another of those matches. Great to see him, Christie and Ajer leave Paradise. We’d developed a habit of outplaying Rangers and losing—usually to a headed goal from a free kick or corner. Lots have changed, we’ve 5000 defensive coaches, but that remains our major vulnerability, home or away.

Our defence picks itself. Hart, Taylor, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt and Juranovic.  

We’re reminded nine out of ten Glasgow derbies are decided by who scores first. Defend corners and defend free kicks and I think we’ll win. But I’m not sure we’ll be able to do that.

We’ll start on the front foot, Ange’s Plan A is also Plan B. Rangers, despite their European success, don’t defend well. A major boost is that Kyogo is fit. He’ll be on the bench, I’m guessing. Georgios Giakoumakis should start after hitting two hat-tricks in two league games. He’s a poacher in the box.

But it wouldn’t surprise me too much if Ange favours Daizen Maeda. I’m still not convinced with him, but he does the doggies, closing down the opposition and getting in behind, in a Kyogo-lite way. And the Japanese forward scores regularly.

Postecoglou tends to play him, but not always through the middle. He’s featured mostly on the left wing. Jota switching to the right. Abada would therefore drop to the bench. He’s not started the last two games. So my best guess is that’s where he’ll start, but come on for the last thirty minutes.

The midfield carousel is harder to pick. McGregor, our captain, playing in front of the defence. Rogic has been pronounced fit. My guess is he’ll start. Certainly, win, lose or draw, if he doesn’t start, he’ll replace O’Riley.

Reo Hatate had the kind of introduction to the Glasgow derby that harked back to the little known Slovenian, Ľubomír “Lubo” Moravčík. The Japanese midfielder’s form has shaded but he’s a definite maybe (as in the Oasis hit). He works best with Maeda. My guess is Taylor, Hatate, Maeda down the left.

Juranovic, Rogic and the Portuguese wonder boy, Jota on the right. We might see the return of David Turnbull at some point, probably late in the game.

Georgios Giakoumakis to start and score first. Win, win, win.   

Celtic 3—0 Rangers

Celtic go top. Even a few weeks ago that would have seemed ridiculous. Our captain Callum McGregor starting is a massive bonus. Maeda being on the bench gives us options. But it’s all about the other Japanese Bhoy. Reo Hatate scored in the fourth minute from a Matt O’Riley corner. The Japanese midfielder hit the clearance from the edge of the box, which took a nick of a Rangers player, before ending in the back of the net. Calvin Bassey and Joe Aribo bumped into each other and were lying in front of the goal. McGregor waved his arms about and tried to get the goal disallowed, but the referee, Mr Madden, gave the goal. Perfect start.

 We moved up a gear, and started with our usual high-pressing game and hunted Rangers down. All over the park we were better. Giorgos Giakoumakis led the line well, and was unlucky not to score one of his four chances. He also looked for a penalty. It was soft, but I’d have given it.

No need. Hatate struck again in the 42nd minute. He bent this one in off the post.

And then just before half-time looped a ball into the back post. Liel Abada did what he’s been doing for his thirteenth goal of the season. He left Barisic searching for him and McGregor standing as the ball went into the back of the net. The first half was all we could have hoped for. But we murdered Hearts in much the same way at Tynecastle and were left clinging on.

But there was never any chance of that here. Ryan Jack had a shot that hit the bar. And in injury time Connor Goldson found himself in front of goal with a free header, but put it over the bar. It was Celtic’s night.

Abada scored, but on the other wing, Jota was outstanding. He too was unlucky not to score, hitting a short Tavernier pass towards goal and forcing McGregor to make yet another save. Giakoumakis ghosting in and getting up above the centre-half was unlucky not to score.

O’Riley in midfield gives us guile and solidity. Hatate wins man of the match for his goals and assists. Our full backs were excellent. I’ve been critical of Taylor, but his work rate was impressive and he kept the ball well and his relationship with Jota flourished. Juranovic looks cool on the ball and off it. He was probably out best defender and best defensive attacker. If Barasic is worth £30 million then Juranovic is worth £60 million.

Gio made a triple change at half-time, but he got no change out of Ange Postecoglou. Rangers had more of the ball. Celtic made a handful of changes of their own to see out the game (Maeda, McCarthy, Forest, Soro and Doak for Giakoumakis, O’Riley, Jota and Abada who seemed to pick up an injury). The result was the same and we remained three goals ahead. Jota probably had the best chance to make if four, but tried to take on the defender inside the box and losing the ball, instead of shooting or passing to Forrest. A minor quibble.

We’ve been hearing all that shit about not beating Rangers since 2019, in a seven-game- unbeaten run. What many forget is how lucky there were to win many of the Old Firm games in which they were outplayed. They were smashed to pieces here in a pulsating first half. And the game was over. Bobby Madden didn’t give them a penalty. Other teams in the league will be looking at this Rangers team and think they can take something. Celtic have moved up and gear and moved ahead. Fourteen games to go. Just keep winning. Perfect day, even though it was night.