Hibs ready to silence Parkhead in key weekend

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The resumption of the Ladbrokes Premiership this weekend will not be defining but could offer compelling evidence that there is a genuine title race.

The focus will be on the Edinburgh clubs in particular. Can leaders Hearts repel Aberdeen – despite their mounting injury problems – and will Hibernian remain above Celtic when the final whistle blows at 
Parkhead?

Former Scotland and Celtic striker Simon Donnelly believes Hibs will be tough opposition for old club this weekend. Pic: Craig Foy/SNS

Former Scotland and Celtic striker Simon Donnelly believes Hibs will be tough opposition for old club this weekend. Pic: Craig Foy/SNS

Throw into the mix Rangers seeking their first away win of the season at Hamilton on Sunday and the ninth round of matches will certainly be intriguing.

When the dust settles it might be the Ibrox club who benefit the most as something has to give in othe ther two 
fixtures.

Former Celtic and Scotland star Simon Donnelly feels Hibs’ visit to the east end of Glasgow will be the most fascinating contest of all.

Neil Lennon’s side showed last season the problems they can pose at Parkhead, securing two draws there, and Donnelly has little doubt they can do well again tomorrow.

What he is unsure of is the level of performance that Celtic will produce such has been their inconsistency.

Indeed, Donnelly feels the international break came at the wrong time for Brendan Rodgers’ side having produced a breathtaking display in hammering St Johnstone 6-0 on 
7 October .

He said: “I will be covering the Celtic game and I remember in particular the 2-2 draw last September when two young Scots, John McGinn and Callum McGregor, scored the goals. Out of most of the teams, Hibs seem to perform best at Celtic Park, although I know Aberdeen won there at the end of last season.

“Hibs have been the best team to watch so far this season even though Celtic had a great result at McDiarmid Park.

“Celtic have shown some signs recently that they are getting back to where they were – especially against St Johnstone where they blew them away and Forrest was on top form.

“That will give them confidence, but the international break halts that a bit so it will be interesting to see which Celtic turn up at the weekend because they will be in a game against Hibs.

“They will have to be at a decent level to win that game.”

Donnelly, who won the title with Celtic 20 years ago, has been very impressed by the way Lennon has coped with losing key personnel by finding tremendous 
replacements.

The Hibs boss had to rebuild his midfield after the sale of McGinn, the loss of Dylan McGeouch and the return of Scott Allan to Celtic where he simply does not play.

In came Stevie Mallan, Mark Milligan and Emerson Hyndman, on loan from 
Bournemouth.

Donnelly said: “He has done it a few times where he loses players and he finds new ones.

“I watched them against Aberdeen in the Betfred Cup game and even if they lost on penalties they were the better team and they played free-flowing exciting football.

“Mallan has come in and done well and Neil seems to be getting the best out of Martin Boyle.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Donnelly feels Celtic will prevail in the grand scheme of things but he accepts that there is a different dynamic to the Premiership this 
season.

He said: “I think it will be a much more open league this season even if I still expect Celtic to win it.

“For a neutral it’s good to have four or five teams in about it and it’s good when you have a day like Saturday when challenging teams are playing against each other.”

Donnelly has been out of football management for two years since he and Jackie McNamara were replaced at York City having worked together at Dundee United and Partick Thistle prior to that.

He works for Celtic’s hospitality department schmoozing and entertaining on a matchday, but he is thrilled to be digging the boots out again for the Star Sixes event at the SSE Hydro in January.

Donnelly will be a member of the Scotland team skippered by Barry Ferguson which takes part in the star-studded event that involves all four home nations, the Republic of Ireland and a Rest of the World select captained by Robert Pires.

He said: “The last event was one of the best experiences I’ve had in football.

“It was really enjoyable and it was competitive. We went over on the bus to that first game and it was if we were going to the World Cup. You had that bit of fire in the belly again and it was brilliant.

“Unfortunately, we peaked in the first game! Typical Scottish.

“But now we know what we’ve let ourselves in for, not to say we weren’t fit the last time, but we’re definitely going to get together and we want to make a good fist of this. We want to get to the final.”