Celtic look to tighten grip on title race
Published 11/04/2015 | 02:30
Celtic can emphasise the difference between a stumble and a stride today in the first of two meetings with Inverness which will do much to define the season's rewards for both teams.
Nine months ago, when Ronny Deila was still feeling his way as Celtic manager and struggling to get his methods across to the squad, he suffered his first domestic defeat in the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium when a plan misfired.
Deila chose to rest no fewer than 10 players because the game in the Highland capital fell between Champions League play-off ties against Maribor.
The ploy failed when Eoghan O'Connell - in one of the Corkman's four appearances for the defending champions this season - put the ball into his own net for the only goal of the game.
Celtic took some time to achieve the consistency which finally saw them reach the top of the Scottish Premiership table in December, while Caley Thistle built on that August win and are now sitting comfortably in third place, eight points clear of Dundee United.
John Hughes' players have also reached the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup and will meet Celtic again at Hampden Park next weekend.
Deila's Bhoys remain favourites for a clean sweep of the Scottish honours and, with the League Cup already stowed away, a win today would see them move significantly closer to a fourth successive championship.
They should do just that, having added to their strength since they beat Inverness 1-0 last November, with the acquisition of Gary Mackay-Stevens and Stuart Armstrong from Dundee United.
Today's fixture will bring Armstrong back to a familiar part of the world.
He was born in Inverness and played for Caley Thistle's youth teams.
"Terry Butcher was in charge but I didn't play particularly well at Inverness," he recalled. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Inverness CT v Celtic, live, Sky Sports 2, 11.45pm