Celtic have found closing the gap on leaders Rangers hard going with the latter impressing under Giovanni van Bronckhorst, but they were able to take advantage of the Gers’ recent draw at Aberdeen to reduce the deficit to four points.
The Hoops returned from the extended winter break with a comfortable 2-0 win over Hibernian, with the added bonus of good performances from new signings Daizen Maeda and Reo Hatate, as the former opened the scoring after just four minutes and the latter scooped up the man of the match award.
With pace amongst Maeda’s key attributes, Ange Postecoglou now has a forward capable of filling in for Kyogo Furuhashi, who is sidelined at present and without whom Celtic have occasionally looked blunt in attack this term.
He also has his forward line boosted with influential winger Jota back in action, while Giorgos Giakoumakis returned to the starting line-up in the weekend cup win over Alloa Athletic with the opening goal.
Skipper Callum McGregor is set for a spell on the sidelines after suffering a facial injury in that clash, while David Turnbull was already unavailable, but the encouraging start to life in Glasgow made by Hatate should soften the blow.
Further, the signing of Matt O’Riley from MK Dons has added greater depth to the squad, so midfield numbers shouldn’t pose a concern to Celtic’s building momentum.
Celtic To Win And Both Teams To Score
The Hoops are now W18-D2-L1 since the start of October, as the sole defeat was inflicted by Leverkusen in Europe. That includes 12 wins from 14 unbeaten league matches, including maximum points from seven of eight road trips.
However, they have only kept the single clean sheet from five trips to top-half sides this term, and their hosts may well fancy their attack to enjoy some success given their own form.
Third-placed Hearts are out on their own as the top side beyond the Old Firm duo this term, holding a significant eight-point lead over Motherwell in fourth.
They come into this fixture off the back of four consecutive victories, though it’s worth noting that three of these were picked up against Dundee, Ross County and St. Johnstone – the bottom three in the table – as well as non-league minnows Auchinleck Talbot in cup action.
In fact, only two of Hearts’ 11 league wins this season have come against top-half teams, with their last four clashes against such teams ending in defeat.
Robbie Neilson can welcome the return of top scorer Liam Boyce, who bagged a brace on his comeback at the weekend, though defender John Souttar remains a doubt to feature after an ankle injury and amid interest from Rangers.
CELTIC TO WIN AND BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE