'A big ask, but Hibs are in contention' - Journalists' predictions for Hibs v Celtic
Our online team give their verdict on Sunday's Ladbrokes Premiership clash between Hibs and Celtic at Easter Road...
Neil Lennon is the only manager to have got the better of Paul Heckingbottom since the Englishman replaced the Northern Irishman. I’ve not been bowled over by Celtic under Lennon, but they are still on a fine run under him and with attacking quality at their disposal, I think Celtic might just edge this one. Prediction: Celtic win
Against any other opponent in Scotland, Hibs would have to be backed to extend their eight-game unbeaten run in the league. But Celtic are a different proposition to the other eight sides Paul Heckingbottom’s side have picked up points against, and with the incentive of potentially securing the title, the visitors’ superior quality should shine through, as it did in the Scottish Cup quarter-final. Prediction: Celtic win
If my prediction in the other game comes true and Hearts are able to take something off Rangers, then Celtic will go into this one with the chances of winning the title at Easter Road, which should add an extra layer of motivation for former manager Neil Lennon. There's also the matter of Paul Heckingbottom's previous two games against the Old Firm at Easter Road which, with perhaps the exception of the 0-0 draw with Kilmarnock, were the worst performances we've seen from the Hibees since he took charge. As much as I'd like to see Hibs deny Neil Lennon a title win, in order to further contradict those who erroneously claimed that the club 'would never find a better manager', I'm gonna have to go for a Celtic victory on this occasion. Prediction: Celtic win
The break probably came at the wrong time for Paul Heckingbottom's Hibs, particularly after a derby victory. However, the players have had some time to dust themselves down ahead of what will be a big push as the Hibees chase a lucrative European spot. It's going to be a difficult ask but Hibs are in contention, something they couldn't have imagined in their wildest dreams just a few weeks ago. Celtic's approach could depend on what happens at Tynecastle 24 hours beforehand where defeat for Rangers could see Neil Lennon's side clinch the title with a win. But I don't envisage Celtic having it all their own way as they did on their last visit to Easter Road last month and will be pushed all the way. Prediction: Draw.
Celtic are the only team to have beaten Paul Heckingbottom's Hibs side, in the Scottish Cup last month. The Hoops stand a chance of winning the title at Easter Road depending on the outcome of Hearts' match with Rangers and given how disappointing Hibs were in the cup tie as Neil Lennon made a winning return to his former employers, another away win looks likely. However, Hibs look to have shifted up a gear since that match, and will be refreshed after an impressive win at Tynecastle against Hearts last time out. Players are returning from injury and with European football still within reach, I think the Hibs squad will be sufficiently fired up to cause Celtic problems - Daryl Horgan is in fine form, the defence is looking more solid than previously and Marc McNulty is a constant threat. Heckingbottom has an unbeaten league run to keep up and while it will inevitably end at some point, I can see Celtic being made to wait to secure the title. Prediction: Hibs winJoel Sked
A very interesting encounter awaits. Paul Heckingbottom let himself down slightly in the defeat to Celtic in the Scottish Cup. It's the only blot on the copybook so far. He has proven to doubters that Hibs were right to move on from Neil Lennon - who will be in the opposite dugout. Depending on the outcome at Tynecastle between Hearts and Rangers on Saturday, Celtic could have the chance to wrap up the title at Easter Road. That's the last thing Hibs will want to happen, meaning the home support will be lively and behind their team. Heckingbottom has tweaked the team since that defeat and Hibs look the better for it so Celtic will be presented with a more difficult opponent. Prediction: Draw.