The winter break could hardly have come at a better time for Celtic. From their return to action against Albion Rovers in the Scottish Cup on 27 January through to their 0-0 draw with Rangers on 30 December, the champions played 61 competitive matches (their closest challengers, Aberdeen and Rangers, played 51 and 48 respectively).
Brendan Rodgers’ players have been granted just seven days of rest and recreation before leaving tomorrow for Dubai and a training camp in a more forgiving climate.
There is little doubt that Celtic ran out of ideas and energy last month, as was underlined by their 4-0 defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle and the Glasgow derby.
Goalkeeper Craig Gordon, however, believes that the winter break will see them hit the ground running when they return for their Scottish Cup tie at home to Brechin City on 20 January.
“I’m 42 games into my season,” he said. “Kieran Tierney has played the same amount as I have and, when you add the internationals, it’s a lot of football. This will refresh everyone and recharge the batteries but the important thing is that it also allows the manager to work on the training ground too and do a bit of coaching.
“When there are so many games then you have to recover, you have to prepare for the next game and there isn’t the same chance to do much in the way of detailed work.
“So this is a good coaching week for the players. It will let us refocus and look at the things we are good at and have another think about the way that the manager wants us to play.”
With the Betfred Cup already in the trophy cabinet and an eight-point lead over the Dons in the title race, Celtic are short odds to become the first club to win back-to-back trebles.
Having been parachuted into the round of 32 in the Europa League from the Champions League, Rodgers’ men will start their entry into the sudden-death phase of the competition with a first leg against Zenit St Petersburg next month.
Having gone three years and 11 games without a home win against Continental opposition (qualifiers excluded), Gordon accepts that they cannot reach the later stages unless Celtic Park once again becomes the intimidating venue it was under Jock Stein, Martin O’Neill and Gordon Strachan.
“We need to get back to winning games at home,” he said. “If we are going back to two-legged ties then we really need to start winning games at home.
“In the qualifying campaigns over the last two seasons, when it has been the two-legged, knockout games, we’ve done quite well.”