Have Celtic rediscovered their mojo in time to land a blow on Rangers?

There were moments in Celtic’s 6-0 obliteration of Livingston when those inside Parkhead would have felt like they had gone back in time.

Celtic were classy and ruthless against Livingston.
Celtic were classy and ruthless against Livingston.

A watertight Celtic defence, Scott Brown and Callum McGregor pulling the strings in midfield, James Forrest wreaking havoc down the right flank and Odsonne Edouard leading the forward line with distinction.

All those facets stood out because, for far too many Premiership matches this season, we have not witnessed them from Celtic. The performance that the dethroned champions put in to dismantle an opponent so often a real pest to them was their best of the season and wore the hallmarks of a Brendan Rodgers team.

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If Celtic had scored ten on Saturday, Livingston would have had no grounds for complaints. Had it not been for some excellent goalkeeping from Robby McCrorie, Celtic would have hit double figures. As it was, they equalled their biggest win of the season – a 6-0 defeat of KR Reykjavik back in August.

James Forrest opened the scoring for them right on the 30-minute mark after a reasonably open start to the match. It was Forrest’s first league start for six months and he was integral to Celtic’s good work. Alas, he picked up what looked to be a hamstring injury 15 minutes into the second half. The strain was bad enough for him to replaced instantly but the club will have to wait and see if he is fit enough to face Rangers next weekend.

David Turnbull followed up Forrest’s goal eight minutes later – a simple tap-in – and at that point, you knew Livingston were in for a long afternoon.

The second half became a procession. Jack Fitzwater scored an own goal, Mohamed Elyounoussi netted two excellent strikes and substitute Ryan Christie got in on the act.

For all that Forrest, Turnbull and Edouard shone, Elyounoussi was the most impressive Celtic player. Partnering Edouard in attack, the Norwegian was devastating. Athletic, powerful, intelligent and with an eye for goal, when in this kind of form it becomes apparent why Southampton parted with £15million to sign him. On loan from the south-coast outfit, Celtic will want to keep him for longer if this is what he can produce on a more regular basis.

So much of the talk of late has been about Eddie Howe and his impending arrival at Celtic, but the man keeping the manager’s chair warm deserves a lot of credit. John Kennedy is yet to taste defeat as Celtic caretaker manager and the team is responding to his tutelage. They create a lot of chances under his watch and are starting to look more confident and organised in defence.

The true test, though, will come next weekend in the Scottish Cup fourth-round tie at Ibrox against Rangers. The new champions will be far more resilient against this Celtic team and pose questions of their own, but Celtic feel they have dominated their Glasgow rivals in the past two matches without getting their just rewards. If they play like they did against Livingston, it’s hard to see them not giving Steven Gerrard’s men their sternest domestic examination for some time.

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