If there was ever any doubt that Celtic were just toying with the rest of the Scottish Premier League while they concentrated on their Champions League campaign, then you only have to look at the results of the last few weeks.
Ever since manager Neil Lennon decided post-Rangers’ demotion that Europe would be Celtic’s priority, the Bhoys have excelled abroad at the expense of some uncharacteristically poor results domestically, but as we head into 2013, it has to be said that the former Leicester midfielder has got his calculations spot on.
Like everybody else, Lennon knew that he could afford a few slip-ups in the SPL, as over the course of the season Celtic have far, far too much quality not to secure the title.
It has meant that all energies could be saved for the Champions League and that policy has been justified with Celtic’s progression to the last 16, where a glamour tie with Italian champions Juventus awaits in February.
And it is noticeable that as soon as Celtic reached the knock-out stages for the first time since 2008, results at home have been excellent.
Previously, there had been times when weekend domestic results at home were poor both before and after midweek European engagements.
Celtic were beaten at St Johnstone before their first group game against Benfica, lost to Kilmarnock after going down unfortunately at the Nou Camp, were defeated by Inverness after the return match with Benfica and even drew at home to Second Division Arbroath before their all-important final group match against Spartak Moscow.
But since the Russians were beaten and Celtic qualified, Lennon’s men have won five straight domestic games and are now on a five-match winning streak in the SPL, a run which has seen them move seven points clear of Aberdeen with a game in hand.
And I don’t see anything other than a sixth consecutive league win when Celtic go to Easter Road to face Hibernian. The Bhoys are 2/5 to do just that, with Hibs priced at 23/4 and the draw at16/5, but it has to be Celtic here.
For their part, Hibernian are having a decent season – Pat Fenlon’s side are fourth in the SPL table – but just as Celtic have rediscovered their form, Hibs have hit a rocky spell.
The Edinburgh side have taken just one point from their last 12 and have lost five of their last seven to slip out of Champions League contention.
They shouldn’t have enough to trouble a Celtic side that look in the groove and I like the 7/5 that Celtic win to nil, which would return £48 for new customers successfully backing it with their free £20 bet.
The Bhoys have won their last four domestic games by doing just that and in total there have been ten occasions in 19 SPL games (as well as two cup matches) when Celtic have won while stopping the opposition from scoring.