The second in a two-part special looking forward to Sunday’s game, Craig Fowler calls on the favourites to live up to their tag.
There can be no excuses now. The rest of the season begins here. Europe has been and gone, the distraction is no more. A settled Celtic side can now get itself into a rhythm and show they are not only the best team in the country, which everyone recognises anyway, but still have the capability to be historically dominant in the manner they were last season. Back to back trebles is something which has never been achieved by a Scottish club before and it is there for the taking.
Furthermore, it’s time to put the upstarts from across the city in their place. There’s been a lot of “noise”, to use a term recently uttered by Brendan Rodgers, that Rangers are on their way back. This is undoubtedly the strongest Ibrox side since the 2012 financial meltdown, but they’ve still got to prove they can be a genuine threat to their rivals, if not in the current campaign then at least going into the next one.
Handing down a beating on their own turf would quash a lot of this talk before it’s truly started. It would also lead to a lot of soul searching at Ibrox, perhaps an overreaction or two, and next season could be just as much of a cakewalk as this campaign initially promised itself to be.
In order to do so it’s time for a lot of players to stand up and take some responsibility. There have been too many in the squad who’ve played below their best. There could be many explanations for why this is. The heights of last term may have been the best you’ll ever see of Jozo Simunovic, Dedryck Boyata, Moussa Dembele, Stuart Armstrong, Scott Sinclair and possibly even a few others. It may be because they see their long-term futures in the English Premier League and took their eye of the ball, failing to realise that in order to get there they need to play to a consistently high standard. It could also be a side effect of Rodgers tinkering with his team just a little too much in order to get players rested for Europe and rotating enough to keep everyone happy.
Regardless, they should be looking to the likes of Scott Brown and James Forrest, two stars who performed well last term and have taken it up a level, for inspiration on how to improve on what we’ve been seeing.
It’s time for Kieran Tierney to show James Tavernier why he’s still considered the best full-back in the country. It’s time for Brown to crush the early ‘Greg Docherty for Scotland’ talk. It’s time for Dembele to become the Rangers killer again, and for Tom Rogic to announce his return to the first-team, and for Boyata to add some steeliness to a much-maligned defence, and so on and so forth.
Celtic remain the best team in the country. It’s time to show it.