Sunday’s shock 3-2 defeat to St Mirren in the League Cup semi-final at Hampden was Celtic’s fifth defeat under Neil Lennon at the national stadium in two-and-a-half years.
It has led many fans and pundits to speak of a ‘Hampden hoodoo’ for the Hoops, who have now lost to Hearts, Ross County, Rangers, St Mirren and Wednesday’s opponents Kilmarnock at the famous old ground under Lennon’s tutelage.
So it ought to come as some relief to them that, on Wednesday, they return to the home comforts of Celtic Park – a stadium where, traditionally, they have an exceptional record.
However, their record there this season is already their worst for years. With a third of the season still remaining, Lennon’s men have already lost twice on home soil – more games than in any complete season since 2006/07 – and dropped ten points, which is more than they did in the entirety of the previous two campaigns.
As well as this, they have already conceded more goals at Parkhead than they did during the whole of last season and crowds have plummeted to their lowest average for years.
So, despite being 12 points clear at the top of the SPL and eagerly awaiting a Champions League last-16 tie with Juventus, things are far from rosy in Lennon’s back yard.
One of their home defeats this season came against Kilmarnock in October. The 2-0 win for Kenny Shiels’ men that day was the visitors’ first triumph in Glasgow’s East End since the 1950s and so, on Wednesday, Killie will be aiming for an unprecedented double.
And they will be hoping that the continued uncertainty over a couple of Celtic’s first-team stars will be an added distraction for the hosts.
With the transfer window remaining open until Thursday, Lennon will be desperately hoping that Wednesday’s SPL match will not be the last time he can call on the services of Gary Hooper and Victor Wanyama, who have both been the subject of persistent interest during the last month.
One player who did leave Celtic in January was Nigerian midfielder Rabiu Ibrahim, who signed for Kilmarnock. It would be typical of Lennon’s luck in the last week or so if the man he brought to Scottish football in the summer returned to haunt him at the first opportunity.
With all these distractions, Kilmarnock look a decent bet to pick up a draw at 11/2, while an away win at 9/1 could also do good business.
New customers to bwin who sign up online qualify for a free £20 bet and using that to back Killie to take a point will return £130 if successful.
If you just can’t see past the champions, however, you will get odds of 9/50 on a home win. At such a short price, though, the risk just doesn’t seem worth it to me.