I have sympathy for Daizen Maeda but Celtic dressing room can’t worry about Tony Mac hoodoo – Chris Sutton – Chris Sutton

There is a fixture that has been circled in the calendars of Celtic fans for weeks.

It’s the one they dread the most, the one they see as a major hurdle on the way to the Premiership title.

It’s not the trip to Ibrox.

It’s tomorrow’s visit to the Tony Macaroni Arena. I don’t blame them.

The Livingston game is absolutely massive – and it’s about time Celtic won there.

That’s how I would be going in to this one. I wouldn’t be in that Celtic dressing room worrying about winless runs or hoodoos.

I’d be thinking this side is due one from us.

A Celtic victory at Livingston is long overdue. It’s incredible to think they have not won there in the league since 2006 but that maybe says more about Livi than it does about my old club.

They are a remarkable story and this hold they have over Celtic at their place is hugely impressive.

Successive Celtic managers have gone there and struggled. Don’t forget, Brendan Rodgers could buy a win at the Spaghettihad either.

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Ange Postecoglou failed in his first attempt there as well but at least he will now know what to expect.

Don’t fall for all this stuff about Livingston being simply a rough and ready route one team.

That’s complete nonsense – and it does them a major disservice.

They have been tough in recent years and they are notoriously hard to beat on their own patch. We all know the surface suits them and no one else.

But they can also play a bit.

David Martindale has done a superb job in the last couple of years and they are on a terrific run of form.

So much so I actually believe Celtic fans expect to drop points there tomorrow.

It’s almost a case of thinking it’s just as well there’s a buffer at the top of the table because the chances are there will be a slip up at Livi.

They don’t even have that mentality going to Ibrox.

But they should be looking at it the other way. If Celtic can get three points and smash this hoodoo against their bogey side, it would be a heck of a result to tick off and a huge step towards the title.

They are going to have to meet the challenge head on because they know what to expect.

Livingston will sit deep and try to frustrate.

But every team in the league tries to do that to Celtic. It’s no surprise it’s become a bit more of a grind in recent weeks as rival sides have seen the blueprint on how to hang tough against Postecoglou’s side.

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It’s Celtic who need to deal with it and adapt. When it gets to this stage, when Celtic and Rangers are feeling the tension, then it might come down to someone doing something special.

The St Mirren game in midweek was following a familiar pattern to the matches against Hibs, Dundee United and a few others until they found a breakthrough.

It turned in to a good three points on the back of Easter Road and Bodo and it’ll need another performance in West Lothian.

I get the clamber for Giorgos Giakoumakis. He adds a physical presence up top and a focal point, and that’s what will be needed tomorrow.

He’s missed the last couple through illness but if he’s fit again then you’d have to think he’ll be lobbed back in.

But I do have some sympathy for Daizen Maeda. I know what it’s like in Glasgow. If you have a couple of quiet games in a row you are written off as a dud.

It’s been tough for him to adapt to Scottish football and when you are a pace merchant who plays on the shoulder, it’s never going to be easy coming up against 10 men strung across the 18 yard line.

I still like his movement and he gets in to some good positions. I’m not sure whipping high balls in to the box is playing to his strengths but even that can work if there are plenty of bodies in there around him.

There’s no doubt Celtic haven’t quite been hitting the heights in the last few weeks but it’s impossible to be 10 out of 10 every week in a league campaign.

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When titles are handed out, no one remembers the horrible afternoons when you need to grind out narrow wins.

But those are the results that get you over the line. Celtic may not have been flying but they are still top of the table with nine games to go.

I don’t care what anyone says – no one believed they’d be in this position when the first ball was kicked back last summer.

Postecoglou has done an incredible job getting them in to this position heading in to the home straight.

Now it’s time to see it through. There should be no talk of fatigue, players needing rested or feeling jaded.

The big prize is right in front of them and it’s time for the big push.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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