Last updated & checked: 10/08/2021
Celtic legend Neil Lennon brings his Hibs side to Glasgow with his old side sitting third in the table, below his current – and much less well-resourced – club. Hibs’ achievement in climbing to just two points behind the top spot has been an underrated one. The Easter Road side lost three international midfielders in the summer, and were expected to fall away from the fourth position they secured in May. If anything, they have looked better as the season has gone on.
Lennon’s countryman, and counterpart here, Brendan Rodgers has not had as remarkable a season up to this point. Defeats at Hearts and Kilmarnock and a lifeless 0-0 draw at St. Mirren have left his side looking up at the two Edinburgh clubs in a Premiership season that has not lacked surprises, but crucially Celtic still sit three places above a Rangers side that has looked great in Europe but, if anything, worse domestically since the arrival of Steven Gerrard. A win here could see the Hoops take top spot, and start to push crisis talk into the background.
Celtic vs Hibernian Prediction: Celtic 3-2 Hibernian
The season so far for Celtic has been about a lack of attacking edge, partly resulting from the departure of top striker Moussa Dembele but also in no small part from a failure to break down sides who defend in numbers and challenge a Hoops side low on confidence to break them down. Hibs are likely to take a more positive approach than most visitors to Glasgow’s East End, and the result should be a thrilling game where both side make, and take, chances. Lennon’s men are more than capable of getting a result here – the irony may be that in going for it, they give Celtic the space to beat them.
Our recommended tip: Hibs score first
Celtic have lacked a little going forward, but much of this season has been dominated by talk of their struggles at the other end. The signing of Filip Benkovic on loan has improved numbers and quality at the back, but ropey performances from defenders like Dedryck Boyata and Jack Hendry have left the usually imperious champions vulnerable to any team prepared to get the ball down and go at them. With plenty of players who can make an impact on the front foot, Hibs are very handily priced at 13/5 with Ladbrokes to break the deadlock here.
Anyone who presumed that Lennon’s obvious affection for Celtic would lead to a lack of edge when his current side faced his old one will have been set right by the four games the sides played in the Premiership last season. Each team won once, a Leigh Griffiths goal giving Celtic the points in late January, while Hibs got revenge with a 2-1 win, secured by Andrius Slivka, in April. Before either of those games, though, came two pulsating 2-2 draws, including an incredible match at Easter Road where two Scott Sinclair goals put the visitors 2-0 ahead before two in four minutes, from former Celt Efe Ambrose and Oli Shaw, gave the Hi-bees a share of the spoils.
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Players to watch: Callum McGregor & Florian Kamberi
While Celtic’s model over recent seasons has been to buy players cheap and sell for a profit, usually to Southampton, after a few seasons, McGregor is one player who has emerged from the youth ranks at Parkhead and stuck around in the first team. His burst of pace from midfield has seen him score plenty of goals, and he does an excellent job exploiting the space bestowed on him by playing on the same side of the pitch as fellow youth graduate Kieran Tierney.
Kamberi arrived at Hibs last season on loan from Grasshopper Zurich, and his nine goals in 14 games pleased Lennon enough to make the deal permanent with the proceeds of John McGinn and Dylan McGeough’s departures. Kamberi has set about repaying that faith, with another three from his five matches so far this season. At just 23 years of age he’s got time to improve and, with the approach favoured by his manager, he seems to be in exactly the right place to do it.