Andy Harrow looks ahead to Hamilton’s home match against Celtic on Sunday afternoon.
Will Griffiths make his first start since January?
Scoring goals hasn’t been a common problem for Celtic under Brendan Rodgers, but of late they’ve been unusually profligate. They hit three against Ross County at the end of March, but either side of that result they’ve been held to scoreless draws at 10-man Motherwell and at home to Dundee. Despite Leigh Griffiths making a return to first team action after a calf injury, Moussa Dembele retained his place in the starting line-up against Neil McCann’s men. The Frenchman has been much improved recently, but he was hooked for Griffiths as Celtic chased a winner on Wednesday and Rodgers might be tempted to start the Scotland striker against Hamilton. It may depend if Griffiths, who suffered his injury against Hibernian 10 weeks ago, is match fit.
Hamilton need to take a leaf out of Dundee’s book
Not many would have predicted Dundee leaving Glasgow’s East End with a point in midweek. Even fewer would have ventured that they would have survived with their goal in tact.The Dens Park side hadn’t kept a clean sheet in the league this year, but they fully merited their result on Wednesday. Steven Caulker has taken some time to adapt to Scottish football, but he was imperious at the heart of the Dundee defence and was ably supported by his colleagues, who packed the space in front on Celtic and denied them space. After a difficult opening period, the away side grew into the game and showed bravery to keep possession and fashion opportunities. If Hamilton - who have mustered only one clean sheet in 2018 - are to take anything against the champions elect, they’ll need to adopt a similar approach.
Can Celtic maintain their focus?
It would be understandable if Celtic minds wandered somewhat this weekend. With a Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers looming large next Sunday and with the title all but wrapped up, a game against Hamilton on their artificial pitch might not be viewed with much enthusiasm by the league leaders. Yet, Brendan Rodgers stressed earlier in the week that wants his side to claim the league trophy as soon as possible and three points at New Douglas Park would go a long way to helping. A win - and a healthy one at that - would also boost confidence ahead of the Old Firm match.
Points are crucial for Hamilton to keep clear of the relegation places
A few weeks ago, it seemed like Hamilton might be spared the trials and tribulations of a post-split relegation battle they’ve become accustomed to. The Lanarkshire club have spent much of their time in the Premiership in the lower reaches of the league and last season only survived after a narrow play-off victory over Dundee United. After a 2-2 draw away to Ross County in mid-March, a stress-free May looked possible; they sat eight points ahead of last place and five ahead of the play-off position, with two games in hand. None of the three sides below them - Partick Thistle, Ross County and Dundee - seemed capable of earning enough points to pressurise them. Fast forward a few weeks and suddenly that’s no longer the case. County and Dundee have improved and have pulled Hamilton to within touching distance. With a game in hand against high-flying Kilmarnock, suddenly Martin Canning’s men could do with picking up points on Sunday to keep those behind them at bay, otherwise another stressful post-split period awaits.
Ali Crawford can put himself in the shop window
The Hamilton midfielder announced earlier in the week that he plans to leave Hamilton when his contract expires at the end of the season. The 26-year-old has spent 11 years and made more than 250 appearances at Accies, so a change of scenery is both well-earned and due. Crawford was excellent, in parts, last season and while he hasn’t hit the same heights when fit this campaign, there’s no doubt that he’s capable of playing at a higher level. After three months on the sidelines due to an injury, a fixture against Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic offers Crawford the opportunity to showcase his talent against the best side in the league and remind potential suitors what he’s capable of.