It took them a few weeks, but SPL champions Celtic now look to have firmly kicked into gear on all fronts this season.
A relatively slow start to the season saw Neil Lennon’s side drop seven points in their opening five games, but since a 2-1 defeat to St Johnstone on September 15th they have won six out of eight in all competitions.
Tuesday’s heart-breaking defeat by Barcelona at the Nou Camp is their only loss during this spell and they have won four consecutive SPL matches without conceding a goal, moving back to the top of the league table.
But on Saturday they face a Kilmarnock side who almost ended Lennon’s Celtic career just over a year ago.
On October 15th 2011, Celtic trudged off at half-time at Rugby Park on the end of a 3-0 hammering by Kenny Shiels’ side. Lennon has since admitted that, had the scoreline stayed the same, his position would have been seriously under threat but, as we now know, Celtic roared back in the second half, salvaged a 3-3 draw, went on to win the SPL title and then subsequently qualified for the Champions League, where they have so far excelled.
Shiels will be hoping that his side can emulate that first-half performance when the sides meet on Saturday, rather than the performance that saw them pegged back in the second period or, for that matter, the performance that saw them annihilated 6-0 by the Hoops in April – the last time the sides met.
Killie travel to Celtic Park on the back of two consecutive SPL defeats and without a win in Glasgow’s East End since 1956, although their famous win over them in the League Cup final at Hampden in March will give them some cause for optimism.
Any trace of positivity for the visitors is not shared by the bookies, though, who rate Kilmarnock as 9/1 outsiders to beat Lennon’s Nou Camp nearly-men on Saturday. Celtic are 1/5 to take another three points, while the draw is available at 5/1.
With such short odds on a home win, you will have to look elsewhere in the markets to make a decent return from this one.
The standout statistic this week is that eight of Celtic’s last ten SPL goals have come in the first half. This is a trend that doesn’t seem to be affected by Champions League exertions in midweek either, as they have scored in the first half of both their SPL matches following their two previous group-stage encounters.
For this reason, odds of 9/5 on Celtic scoring more goals in the first half than in the second look very tempting, as does a price of 17/10 on the match having more goals before half-time than after.
New customers to bwin who sign up online qualify for a free £20 bet and using that to back Celtic to score more goals in the first half than in the second at 9/5 will return £56.00 if successful.