SPL leaders Celtic will look to stretch pole position when they host a fourth-placed St. Johnstone side that have gone four games without a win.
Ronny Deila’s Celts look to have got over the blip in form that saw them beaten by Motherwell and draw with Hearts as they’ve won their two games since, including a comprehensive 4-1 success at Dundee United last weekend.
Top gun Leigh Griffiths notched twice in that win to give him his 50 and 51st goals for the club and take his tally in the League this season to 18. He’ll be looking to add to that record when the Saints come to Parkhead after they played out a goalless stalemate against struggling Hamilton Accies in their last run out.
Because let’s face it, if the Saints strikers can’t trouble an Accies backline that had leaked 37 times prior to the clash, then their chances of breaching a Celtic defence that has only let in 17 times is going to be limited, at best.
Sure, the under-pressure Accies boss Martin canning had to stop the rot and will have been pleased with the battling performance that his troops put in, but Saints gaffer Tommy Wright must be wondering where the goals are going to come from as it was the fifth game in a row that his side have failed to register.
Star striker Michael O’Halloran is likely to return to the Perth side’s line up after being rested for the Hamilton game, but whether it will be enough to test Celtic’s mean defence is up for debate.
O’Halloran is being touted as a transfer target for the Hoops Glasgow rivals Rangers and putting one in the back of the Celts’ net wouldn’t do his chances of endearing himself to the Ibrox faithful any harm, should the move come about.
However, the focus is more likely to be on defending in numbers to try and frustrate the defending Champions and looking to steal what they can on the break, with set-plays sure to be a big part of St. Johnstone’s game plan as they will look to make the best of dead ball situations around the host’s box.
The visitors will likely try and bore Celtic into submission but with Aberdeen still breathing down their necks, Deila’s side can’t afford any slip-ups and they’ll want to be at their ruthless best for this one with Griffiths keen to add to his scoring totals.
And with a goal threat spread throughout the side, Celtic should prove red-hot odds on favourites to win this one. They also added to their side this week with the signing of Erik Sviatchenko, who has joined the club from Midtjylland.
Celtic Recent Form WWLDWW
St. Johnstone Recent Form DWLDLD
13/12/2015 St Johnstone 0 Celtic 3
29/08/2015 Celtic 3 St Johnstone 1
15/05/2015 St Johnstone 0 Celtic 0
04/03/2015 Celtic 0 St Johnstone 1
14/02/2015 St Johnstone 1 Celtic 2
Celtic (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Simunovic, Tierney, Bitton, McGregor, Commons, Rogic, Forrest; Ciftci.
St. Johnstone (4-1-3-2) –Mannus, Fisher, Mackay, Anderson, Easton, Millar, Davidson, Kane, Thomson, O'Halloran, MacLean.
Celtic: Janko (inj), Brown (inj), Mulgrew (inj), Christie (inj).
St. Johnstone: Craig (inj).