Alan Archibald believes the criticism hurled at Ronny Deila in recent weeks is unjustified, even if he knows Partick Thistle might never have a better chance of ending a barren run at Parkhead which stretches back over 23 years.
Celtic have failed to win at home in each of their last four matches and were held 2-2 at Tynecastle in their last outing which has brought considerable abuse the Norwegian’s way.
Conversely, Thistle are unbeaten in six matches, winning four of them, and are fresh from an impressive point at Pittodrie which has engendered hope that they might win in Glasgow’s east end for the first time since 26 September 1992.
Archibald said: “People are calling it the weakest Celtic team in years but I think that’s unfair. At the end of last season they were flying, on a good run and doing ever so well.
“They’re still in a period of transition, although I think it’s a good thing that Ronny Deila has signed so many Scottish players.
“They’re taking time to bed in but they got a lift right away last year when they bought Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven from Dundee United and Mackay-Steven tore us apart on his debut.
“Now, though, his players are taking longer to settle but that happens. They’ve also lost two brilliant centre-halves in Virgil van Dijk and Jason Denayer and they’re hard to replace. But they’re still top of the league – although Aberdeen haven’t had the credit they deserve for running them close.
“Is it a good time to go there? Only if our own performance is good. You then hope you can maybe get the fans on their backs in the first five to ten minutes and build on that. The key is getting a good start.
“The other vital factor is maintaining your discipline, making sure that you have 11 players on the pitch and that you keep yourself in the game.
“If we can produce a similar display to the one at Pittodrie and our key defensive players can match their creative players then we’ll have a chance but you need a lot of things going in your favour to get a result there.”
Archibald has taken inspiration from Motherwell and Kilmarnock, who have plundered points from Parkhead in recent times but he may have some personnel problems. Gary Fraser, who missed the goalless draw at Pittodrie with an ankle knock, is still a doubt while full-backs Mustapha Dumbuya and Callum Booth face fitness tests.
The Firhill manager also revealed he is close to making a new attacking signing but it will not be completed before tomorrow’s game.
He said: “We’re waiting for an answer on what will be a permanent signing but, whatever happens, he won’t be involved on Saturday. The window doesn’t open until then so that’s too soon.
“Robbie Muirhead returns to Dundee United after the Celtic game and Ryan Edwards is away with Australia so we need to get at least one new player in.”