Celtic can give themselves some breathing space at the top with a victory over Ross County that would take them three points clear of title-challengers Aberdeen.
And make no mistake, that’s what Hoops boss Ronny Deila will be demanding from his side after seeing their commanding lead stripped back over recent weeks.
He’ll also be looking for revenge for the recent 3-1 Scottish League Cup Semi Final defeat that the Highlanders inflicted on his side at Hampden just a couple of weeks ago. On the back of that defeat, his side have also been beaten by the Dons and were unconvincing in a 2-0 Scottish FA Cup victory at tiny East Kilbride, so they have a massive point to prove.
New boy Colin Kazim-Richards opened his account at the Lowland League minnows when he poked home from close range but it is strike partner Leigh Griffith’s fitness that Deila will sweat on as he came off with a knock late on in the tie. He’s expected to have recovered in time for the game and will be looking to add to his 29 goal haul this season – even if the opener at East Kilbride was put away after using his hand and should have been chalked off.
The Norwegian manager also used a conventional 4-4-2 formation in the game and may stick with it to allow Griffiths and Kazim-Richards to remain in the striking roles against a fourth-placed County side that have conceded 37 times this term.
It could be all or nothing for the Highlanders who have drawn only three games – on of them on their travels - while winning three and losing six on the road.
They were 2-1 victors at Motherwell in their last League match and beat Junior side Linlithgow Rose 4-2 to reach the SFA Cup quarter finals last weekend.
With a Scottish League Cup Final against Hibs next month as well as progression in the SFA Cup, boss Jim McIntyre isn’t getting distracted and insists that a top six finish in the League is his main priority.
County play third-placed Hearts in mid-week and that game could sap some of the energy from his players ahead of the journey to Glasgow and has to be taken into consideration for punters.
McIntyre made six changes to his side that faced minnows Rose in the Cup and will look to bring back in his big-guns after biting his nails a bit when the East Super League leaders got the tie back to 3-2 at one stage.
Celtic, however, will be looking to turn on the style in this game as Kazim-Richards gets his chance to walk out in front of the Celtic Park crowd for the first time and should get a huge reception which will give all the players a boost – especially as they were booed off at half time at East Kilbride by the band of travelling fans.
If they blow the title now it would prove the kind of slip up that would see Deila shown the door in the summer – so expect them to be ruthless.
Celtic Recent Form WWWLLW
Ross County Recent Form WWLLWW
31/01/2016 Ross County 3 Celtic 1
08/11/2015 Ross County 1 Celtic 4
01/08/2015 Celtic 2 Ross County 0
24/01/2015 Ross County 0 Celtic 1
27/12/2014 Celtic 0 Ross County 0
Celtic (4-4-2) Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Sviatchenko, Tierney, Mackay-Steven, Brown, Mulgrew, Forrest, Griffiths, Kazim-Richards.
Ross County (4-4-2) – Fox, Fraser, Boyd, Davies, Foster, Gardyne, Irvine, McShane, Franks, Graham, Schalk.
Celtic: Simunovic (inj), Commons (inj).
Ross County: Goodwillie (susp).