Celtic v Aberdeen – a fixture that has seen the men from the east end of Glasgow netting more than their fair share of goals in recent years – a fair few fours, a couple of fives and even a nine spring to mind.
This season’s Celtic team like to go about things in a similar way and have netted 52 league goals already this campaign.
On the face of it Celtic have an abundance of attacking options.
John Guidetti has been linked with a move which would earn him £60,000-a-week at Marseille, Anthony Stokes has scored almost a goal every two games since joining Celtic and Leigh Griffiths is starting to show the form that convinced Celtic to sign him last January, with four goals in his last five domestic outings.
On top of the centre forward options, Celtic also posses goal threats in the shape of Kris Commons and their two recent signings from Dundee United, Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven.
On the face of it, this Celtic team certainly know their way to the back of the net.
However, is this weekend the best possible time to take on that attack?
The most obvious concern for Celtic is the midweek game against Inter Milan. A tough 90 minutes, 54 minutes of which they were forced to play with just 10 men, is hardly ideal preparation and although Celtic have a large and very fit squad, there is no doubting the fact that Thursday’s efforts will have affected the players – Guidetti in particular. The Swede had the thankless task of playing the lone striker role and implementing Ronny Deila’s high pressing game from the front. An incredibly tiring task, best shown by the fact Celtic were forced to substitute him after just 59 minutes.
That substitute highlights another concern for the Hoops. Guidetti and Griffiths have established themselves as Celtic’s two first choice strikers, while Stokes finds himself third in the pecking order.
However, when Deila replaced Guidetti it was neither Griffiths nor Stokes that took his place, instead it was winger James Forrest, forced to play in an unfamiliar role of centre forward.
The Hoops boss was unable to call on Griffiths after the striker picked up an injury while training in Milan and that very injury could rule him out once again tomorrow afternoon.
Stokes, on the other hand, was available, in fact he was sat just along from Forrest and Deila on the Celtic bench. The reason for him not getting the chance to take on the Inter defence appears to be a matter of discipline, or a lack of discipline, to be more specific.
Stokes popped home to Ireland for a recent trip but incurred the wrath of Deila when he returned back to Glasgow late.
Since then he was dropped from the squad for the first leg of the Inter tie, dropped from the squad for the league match with Hamilton and then, when Celtic were crying out for a centre forward to replace Guidetti against Inter Milan, he was overlooked in favour of a winger with just a solitary goal to his name this season. Deila insists Stokes has a future at Celtic, however, it is clear he is going to need to put in a fair amount of work to get back in his manager’s good books.
So with one striker struggling following his midweek efforts, another struggling to recover from an injury and the third struggling to win his manager over, Celtic may rely heavily on their attack minded midfielders to provide the spark to win the match.
The most obvious Celtic goal threat against Aberdeen perhaps does lie in an attacking midfielder in the shape of Kris Commons – the man who has netted eight goals in the last nine matches between the sides.
Undoubtedly Commons does have a frightening record against the Dons, however, he himself is far from at his best just now. A thigh injury has limited his recent game time and meant he was only fit enough to play 12 minutes against Inter Milan. He obviously remains a threat but will he be as dangerous as eight goals in nine matches? The injury suggests not.
While Commons has a very impressive record against the Dons, two midfielders who do not have as impressive a record against Aberdeen are Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong. Between the pair they faced Aberdeen 23 times but have only mustered one goal between them – a Mackay-Steven strike in United’s 3-0 win at the start of this season.
The duo have hit the ground running at Celtic and are clearly dangerous players but there is no reason for Aberdeen to be running scared of the pair.
Tomorrow’s match promises to be a thrilling encounter and who Deila selects in his attacking roles, and how effectively they perform, could prove critical.