Celtic v Morton – Match Preview
by Russell Gordon
With Morton’s impressive league campaign hitting a sticky patch in recent weeks, under normal circumstances, the resumption of our Scottish Cup campaign may well be seen as blessed relief from the trials and tribulations of a promotion race. Not so much this weekend though, as Morton jump from the frying pan right into the raging inferno of Celtic Park, and a trip to the champions, and by far the best team in the land.
With over 2000 ‘Ton fans travelling to back their heroes, support won’t be in short supply, but we’ll need everything we can to come out of what is unquestionably the hardest possible tie we could’ve drawn at any stage of the tournament, unscathed. It should also be noted that Saturday will be a historic occasion for Morton- the first match we will play with VAR in force, as the governing body have decided to implement the system when it suits, rather than consistently across all or none of the sixteen ties, for some bizarre reason.
For those who aren’t travelling to Glasgow’s East End, you can watch the match from behind the sofa on BBC One Scotland.
Photo - GBR Photographs.
As far as we are aware, the squad are posting a clean bill of health ahead of the mammoth task in front of them. Grant Gillespie’s suspension will carry onto next week’s league fixture against Arbroath. The news of the aborted signing of former Celtic and Dundee United hitman Nadir Cifci will be seen by the manager as a blow, but it would suggest that Imrie is in the market for a striker, in spite of this latest disappointment.
In the Celtic squad, only centre back Stephen Welsh has had the honour of representing Morton, having spent the first half of the abridged 2019-20 season playing out of position under David Hopkin at Cappielow, whilst former Morton Caretaker Manager and all round good guy, Anton McElhone, is now a member of Ange Postecoglou’s backroom staff.
In the visitors’ squad, new signing Calvin Miller started his career at Celtic under Brendan Rodgers, making only four first team appearances and enjoying loan spells at Ayr United and Dundee. Efe Ambrose enjoyed a more fruitful spell in Glasgow, winning all three domestic honours, including four league titles. He was a part of the Celtic team which beat Barcelona in 2012, and lost to Morton in 2013.
Morton Manager Dougie Imrie once scored an important goal at Celtic Park.
Tale of the Tape
Morton unsurprisingly don’t have a great record against Celtic in the Scottish Cup, having only beaten them once in the tournament- Eddie Murphy’s extra time strike at Ibrox was enough to ensure a Hampden date for a final with Rangers in 1948, which unfortunately didn’t end as well.
Since the turn of the century, we’ve met three times in the Scottish Cup and once in the League Cup. Celtic visited Cappielow for a midweek Fourth Round tie in 2010 and won a narrow match by a single Niall McGinn goal on a bitterly cold night on the Tail O’ The Bank.
Morton then travelled to Celtic Park for a League Cup Third Round tie in 2013 and put on an incredible defensive performance, sneaking out with a 1-0 extra time win to shock the cup favourites and the rest of the football world on a night that will go down in folklore as one of the greatest in our modern history, thanks to Dougie Imrie’s extra time penalty.
We’ve since made two more visits to Celtic Park, both on Scottish Cup duty in front of paltry crowds, with Celtic posting 3-0 victories on each occasion.
Photo - GBR Photographs.
There’s no hiding from the task at hand, here. Celtic are absolutely formidable opposition. Since losing to St. Mirren on 18th September, they’ve picked up 43 points from 45- only dropping points against Rangers at Ibrox three weeks ago.
Whilst Ange Postecoglou will doubtless be tempted to mix things up a bit and give some fringe players an opportunity against lower league opposition, the strength in depth his squad has is such that even if he does, it will provide little respite for Morton.
With Georgios Giakoumakis seemingly heading out the exit door to Japan, we may at least be spared his threat, although Celtic don’t exactly find goals hard to come by, regardless of who takes to the pitch on any given day.
I spoke to Celtic fan Natasha Meikle (@natashameikle) of A Celtic State Of Mind (@ACSOMPOD) podcast, who is understandably enjoying her team’s work over the course of the season so far, and is looking forward to the visit of Morton, as Celtic begin look to progress in yet another domestic tournament.
“It’s been a successful season for the hoops, who sit nine points clear of their local rivals at the top of the SPFL Premiership table. Domestic cup duties are also running smoothly, with Celtic having successfully secured a place in the League Cup Final with last weekend’s 2-0 victory over Kilmarnock at Hampden. The Bhoys will be looking to continue their pursuit of silverware with a victory over Greenock Morton at Celtic Park on Saturday. They are no strangers to trebles in recent years, and that will certainly be the target this time around. On current form, it certainly isn’t out of the question.
It will take a monumental effort for Morton to stop those treble ambitions, but let’s not forget ten years ago when the teams went head-to-head in the League Cup and a 97th minute penalty by a certain Dougie Imrie took Morton through after extra time.
As for this season’s Celtic side, they have been fond of a late goal themselves, but Postecoglou’s team will be looking to get the job done early on Saturday. Morton’s back line will have their work cut out to deal with a clinical strike force, who on current form will be hard to stop.
Who will lead the line for the Hoops will be of particular interest for the Celtic fans this weekend. There is of course the option of the league’s top scorer, Kyogo, who has bagged 16 league goals in 20 appearances so for this season. A telling sign will be whether there is space in the squad for Georgios Giakoumakis. The Greek striker has been heavily linked with a move during this transfer window, with Japanese outfit Urwa Red Diamonds the rumoured front runners to secure his signature. He didn’t feature in the midweek win over St. Mirren due to “injury”, however it remains to be seen if he will even be at the club by the time comes around. If he is, the game is likely to be one he should be expected to start. Of his 19 appearances this season, 15 have been from the bench, so this would be a prime opportunity to rest Kyogo and have Giakoumakis lead the line.
Postecoglou likes to keep Scottish football on its toes, and squad rotation is a common occurrence, with numerous changes on a weekly basis. Celtic have a relatively compact fixture list in January, and this tie is likely to present an opportunity for Ange to utilise his large and talented squad he has available to him, with some fringe players being candidates for game time.
With Cameron Carter-Vickers recovering from injury, we may see a second start for new signing Kobayashi, although the game may come too soon for a debut for his compatriot Tomoki Iwata. Other players waiting in the wings for more game time include Stephen Welsh, James McCarthy, Yosuke Ideguchi and Oliver Abildgaard. David Turnbull and Sead Haksabanovic have recently returned from injury/suspension, and could also be expected to feature in this tie. Alternatively, Ange might choose to give some first team experience to some of the younger players. Attacking midfielder Rocco Vata and centre half Bosun Lawal have been impressing in the B team, and are on the cusp of a first team call up. This tie could be an ideal opportunity for them to feature.
So while the line-up itself is relatively unpredictable, squad rotation is almost a guarantee. Regardless of who starts for Postecoglou’s side, it will be a tough test for Morton. As is always the case when Celtic play domestically, the fans will expect nothing less than a win, and given the form the Bhoys are in, we could see plenty of goals in this one. However, that aforementioned League Cup tie serves as a reminder that anything can happen in cup football…”
Photo - GBR Photographs.
All odds are supplied by McBookie. All odds correct as of 7pm on 19th January 2023 and are subject to change. Please only bet within your means and visit BeGambleAware if you are struggling.
It may come as a surprise to some to see that Morton are the underdogs heading into the tie. The hosts are priced at a slightly conservative 1/33, whilst the draw is 10/1 and Morton to win comes in at 28/1.
In spite of what I’ve said, we at the Morton Forum are eternal optimists, so Morton to repeat the feat of 2013 by winning in extra time is 40/1 and Efe Ambrose to score anytime is 20/1. You can buy me a pint when you win big.
Referee- Kevin Clancy
AR 1- Ross MacLeod
AR 2- Alastair Mather
Fourth Official- Barry Cook
VAR- Craig Napier
AVAR- Frank Connor