Why Celtic might alter the game plan to combat Livingston 'heebee-jeebies'

Special measures isn’t a concept you associate with Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic. They are set up to impose themselves on opponents with aggressive, attacking intent, however they might choose to set up. Yet, there is just a wee hint from captain Callum McGregor that an exception may have to be made for Sunday’s trip to Livingston as the cinch Premiership leaders seek to preserve their three point advantage over Rangers at the top of the table.

The fixture that gives the Celtic support the heebee-jeebies more than any other, it is little wonder. Celtic haven’t won in West Lothian across the four seasons Livingston have been back in the top flight, a period that leaves them five such games without a victory. Postecoglou’s men are on a 27-match domestic unbeaten run. It just so happens their last defeat came, you’ve guessed it, on their last trek along the M8 to Almondvale, with a 1-0 loss in mid-September. Livingston, now fourth and in their best form of the campaign, followed that up by holding Celtic to a scoreless draw in Glasgow at the end of October. The upshot of those two outcomes is that David Martindale’s men are the only Scottish side Postecoglou hasn’t registered a win over. McGregor is well aware of his club’s problems against Livingston. Indeed, a sense has developed that their plastic pitch has created some sort of psychological block for those in Celtic colours.

“We have kind of struggled to pick up results, especially away, so we just try to implement the game model that we want,” said the midfielder. “We will look at it over the next couple of days, anticipate what they will do, and try to come up with a gameplan to beat that.”

The likelihood is that the requirement for Postecoglou’s side to end their hoodoo will involve countering what, in modern football parlance, is known as the low block. Celtic’s Premiership games have fallen into a similar pattern of late as opponents have adopted that tactic. St Mirren did so at Parkhead in midweek, keeping their hosts at bay until the points were claimed with two second goals Martindale’s men are the past masters of the approach.

Celtic's Callum McGregor (centre) celebrates with Daizen Maeda and Albian Ajeti after making it 2-0 during a Cinch Premiership match between Celtic and St Mirren. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

“We try and play a type of football that requires patience sometimes,” the Celtic captain said..” When you get teams that come and sit low, it is hard to break down. You have to keep moving the ball and keep shifting it side to side to try and find that opening to get you a goal. It can come from a set play, it can come from a mistake or whatever. You’ve just got to be ready to take the chance.

“That’s our game. We want to pin teams in and make it hard for them to defend till we get that opening. But it does require patience. It’s going to be a nervy run-in towards the end. It’s just about the players and everybody staying calm and trusting what has got us this far. It works, so we stay calm and keep doing the right things. And hope we will do enough to get there.”

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Callum McGregor. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Livingston's Andrew Shinnie (L) and Celtic's Callum McGregor during a Cinch Premiership match between Celtic and Livingston, on October 30, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

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