We have one big game this week, the one this afternoon. It is not a season-definer, but Hearts are one of the best teams we’ll come up against in Scotland, and home or away they will put up a fight. They always do under Neilson.
We did not need any extra incentive to go out here today and put on a show, but we all know that we were handed one yesterday by Ibrox and its Street Fighting Man. I think they’d have got something had they only had to cope with Lundstram being off. Morelos forced their manager into a desperate rear-guard action.
(The wrong tactic, by the way, as some of their fans have pointed out.)
At that point, I think any side would have fancied its chances scoring. Perhaps teams will look at their “every man behind the ball” decision, and its failure, and wonder why they would play against the Ibrox club the same way for 90 minutes, as some of them do. Who needs to be down to nine men? If you’ve decided to sit back and soak up pressure you’re voluntarily strapping yourself into the same tactical approach. And it did not work.
Even without that result yesterday, we would have approached today as the best team in the country does. With the will to win, and the capability to do so in some style. I think we will win, and I think it’ll be comfortable. Comfortable is our default position now, even on a tricky away ground like Kilmarnock with its hellish plastic surface.
As good as that win was – and I thought it was a great performance – you just sense there is more to come, that this team has a few gears left that it could have gone through. We haven’t seen close to the best this side has to offer yet.
So we’d have been up for this today even without Mad Dog and the Karate Kid having their impact on the Easter Road result. Ibrox fans continue to kid themselves that the ref was the only factor in the game too. Hibs scored an excellent goal when there were still eleven men facing them. That result has been coming.
So has Celtic really crushing someone.
Are Hearts a little too good for that? We swept them aside on their last visit to Parkhead last season, but that was another day on which we could have had a cricket score and where we could have dealt with them in a far more savage fashion.
That sort of performance is always in this team. We’ve seen it most regularly at home. Three times last season we scored six at home, and once we scored seven. Could today be a victory on that order of magnitude? Probably not, but it could.
It could, and that’s the fact of it. A five goal haul away last weekend is the biggest win we’ve managed on the road under Ange. As promised, this is a team that is only getting better. Today will be a test, but it could easily end in a rout.
We are all entitled to be confident. We are all entitled to be looking forward to this. We deserve days like today, when we can move clear at the top of the table. And don’t underestimate goal difference either; we are already in front.
We should see this as a chance to extend our lead there too, and make sure we have a nice cushion for the weeks ahead. Most important, though, is just to win this game, to push forward and get those points on the board.
At Celtic, things are as relaxed and comfortable as I can ever remember them. Win today and we can spend the rest of the week with our feet up. Let others sweat. Let others worry about all the things that the champions, and the top team, don’t have to.