Celtic never stop but now they'll have to: 56 changes, credit in bank and Callum McGregor news

"We never stop” has been the motto adopted by Ange Postecoglou era-Celtic.

Ange Postecoglou at training at Lennoxtown yesterday. "If the players can handle that they can negotiate anything," he said with reference to Celtic's recent busy spell  (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Ange Postecoglou at training at Lennoxtown yesterday. "If the players can handle that they can negotiate anything," he said with reference to Celtic's recent busy spell (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Although this phrase certainly speaks to their relentless style, there is little that can be done when someone plants a World Cup slap bang in the middle of a season.

They will have to stop after today. Saturday afternoon’s Premiership fixture with Ross County will be their 13th game in 42 days, including four Champions League assignments. Afterwards, they have a 34-day break until their season resumes in Aberdeen on 17 December.

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It’s the equivalent of a close season although of course Celtic are fitting in a trip to Australia for the Sydney Super Cup. A training camp in Portugal has also been scheduled.

Postecoglou might normally be expected to curse this disruption after eight domestic victories in a row. The fear is that momentum might be lost. Celtic head into this afternoon’s league clash with Ross County knowing that they could be bidding to extend their lead at the top to nine or ten points. At the very least they will be aiming to maintain the current seven-point gap between them and Rangers, who face a tricky trip to St Mirren at lunchtime.

Postecoglou has praised his players for ensuring they have not been deflected from their primary purpose despite some challenging Champions League outings. He has sought to keep things fresh by making more alterations to his team than he might otherwise have liked. There have been 56 changes to his starting XIs in the last dozen games, with as many as six for Wednesday night’s 2-1 win over Motherwell. Although something of a grind, to use Postecoglou's own words, it was an important win going into the last round of fixtures before the hiatus. It might well prove beneficial for Celtic to finally have the chance to draw breath.

“Their form in the league has been a credit to them,” said Postecoglou. “We have had a challenging start to the season. We have had 14 games and eight of them have been away from home. Our performances for the most part have been strong. The schedule when we resume will not be anywhere near as busy as it has been. If the players can handle that they can negotiate anything. The break for the World Cup is something new, but we knew about it and have planned for it from pre-season.”

If Celtic had been offered the chance to establish at least a seven-point lead at the break back in July, prior to their opening game against Aberdeen, they would surely have taken it. What they might not have accepted is losing their skipper for several weeks due to a knee injury but Celtic seem to be coping with the loss of Callum McGregor, who Postecoglou reported should return to light training during the trip down under. It’s another reason for Celtic to welcome the break. McGregor might not miss any more competitive games.

“Callum will come to Australia with us, but he will not be involved in the games," confirmed Postecoglou. "They will come too early for him. He should be able to do some light training in Australia and when we go to Portugal. Hopefully he will be ready to return when club football resumes after the World Cup break next month.”

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