Yet, the timing of the Premier Sports Cup tie could be a saving grace for Malky Mackay’s men. His counterpart is keen to manage the loads on his players at the start of a seven-game spell that will see them face up to Rangers and Real Madrid following their Dingwall date. As a result, it would be no surprise if Celtic’s unstoppable attacking trident of Kyogo Furuhashi, Liel Abada - a pair whose hat-tricks at Tannadice helped blast Jack Ross out of his United post – and Jota did not feature. Mind you, with last season’s cinch Premiership joint-top scorer Giorgos Giakoumakis likely to take over from the Japanese predator for one, County may not consider any Celtic selection would give cause for comfort.
The cup-tie will mark a second appearance at the Global Energy Stadium for Postecoglou’s men inside the month. And the home team will draw encouragement from the fact they were competitive against the Scottish champions and were level thanks to an Alex Iacovitti header on the hour until undone by two late goals for a 3-1 loss – Furuhashi, Moritz Jenz and Abada netting for the visitors. That wasn’t the case for Mackay’s men in their 4-0 loss to Rangers at Ibrox on Saturday, though they were hardly helped by the inexplicable decision of referee Don Robertson not to send off James Sands with the encounter still goalless. With one win and four defeats from their first five league games as Celtic have amassed full points, it will be an onerous task for them to halt the Premier Cup holders’ progress.
Who: Ross County v Rangers
What: Premier Sports Cup, last 16
Where: the Global Energy Stadium, Dingwall
When: Wednesday, August 31. Kick-off 7.45pm
Referee: Willie Collum
How to watch
The game is being shown live on Premier Sports, and is available on their player on mobile devices or through Sky on television. The programme will start at 7.30pm, 15 minutes before kick-off, and at its conclusion the draw will be made for the quarter-finals of the competition.
Ross County have Jack Baldwin and Ross Callachan suspended following their retrospective red-cards for horrendous challenges that escaped the ultimate sanction in their team’s win over Kilmarnock. Yan Dhanda is also banned following two bookings in the group stages. William Akio returns from injury, but Connor Randall will be sidelined for another four to six weeks.
Celtic have a clean bill of health and, as well as the possibility of first starts this season for Giorgos Giakoumakis, Benjamin Seigrist, Anthony Ralston and James Forrest, Ange Postecoglou has also said he may look to give attacker Sead Haksabanovic, who arrived last week from Rubin Kazan , a run-out from the bench.
Celtic are on a five-game winning streak against County. The Highland club’s last victory in the fixture came with a 1-0 win at home on February 21, 2021 in the behind-closed-doors environment demanded by the coronavirus pandemic. That Sunday evening encounter was to prove to be Neil Lennon’s last at the Celtic helm.
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