'˜More difficult to call last season' - Journalists' predictions for Hibs v Celtic
Four of our six online writers managed to guess the correct result last weekend as Hibs defeated Hamilton. This time they try to predict what will happen during Sunday's big match at Easter Road.
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Joel Sked: This could be a tough afternoon for the Easter Road crowd. Neil Lennon has been hampered further by injuries and despite the win over Hamilton last weekend it is hard to say that Hibs have escaped their rut. They welcome a Celtic side who look a few levels above anything else in Scotland. They themselves were taught a football lesson on Thursday in the Europa League defeat to Salzburg but even with injuries to Mikael Lustig and Ryan Christie they still have reinforcements in Kristoffer Ajer, Scott Brown and Olivier Ntcham. In addition they will be buoyed by reaching the knockout stages. The Hibs coaching team have admitted they can’t play the way they like and want and that’s how they have caused Celtic most problems. Celtic win.
Patrick McPartlin: Hibs almost had Celtic’s number last season - two draws and a win from their four Ladbrokes Premiership meetings was a decent return, and the loss was only by a single goal. However, we’ve seen this season how easily Celtic can turn it on to get results while Hibs have struggled with injuries, a loss of key personnel and a run of seven games without a win. Celtic aren’t without their own injury problems, and last season it might have been more difficult to call, but despite Hibs coming in off the back of an away win at Hamilton and Celtic having had a Europa League fixture on Thursday night, I can’t see the Hoops getting anything less than a win here. Prediction: Away win.
Mark Atkinson: The biggest issue for Hibs here is going to be the midfield battle. Last season they matched Celtic in that department, hence why they got a win and two draws over the course of the campaign. The bare facts, though, are that they’ve not been able to dominate lesser teams in the engine room, so it’s almost impossible not to envisage Scott Brown and Olivier Ntcham dictating and setting Celtic on their way to a convincing win. Even allowing for Thursday’s energy-sapping and emotional night against Salzburg, Celtic have too much quality and the bit between their teeth league-wise. Celtic’s defence is ropey enough that Hibs may well find the net, but the visitors will score more than them and probably prevail by a couple of goals.
Neil McGlade: Hibs gave a good account of themselves when the sides met at Celtic Park in October, running the home side close before going down 4-2. However, eight weeks is a long time in football and a lot has changed for both clubs since then, on and off the field. Emerson Hyndman must start on Sunday as the American was one of the few creative sparks last weekend as Hibs finally got that long-awaited win. Celtic could be feeling fatigued but I still expect them to rise to the challenge. It won’t be a pretty 90 minutes but Brendan Rodgers’ side’s quality will edge it. Away win.
Anthony Brown: Despite their recent slump, Hibs have been competitive in most of their matches against the bigger clubs in the league, such as Celtic, Hearts and Aberdeen. They have developed a reputation in recent seasons for producing their best in the most high-profile games, particularly at Easter Road, and there has been no clear evidence as yet that Neil Lennon’s team have lost the ability to rise to the big occasion on home soil. Celtic have shown fallibility by dropping points in two of their last three away matches in the Premiership. Inconsistent Hibs midfielder Vykintas Slivka has generally produced his best against the two Glasgow sides and Emerson Hyndman showed his quality last weekend, while this may just be the type of fixture for dangermen like Stevie Mallan, Florian Kamberi and Martin Boyle to rediscover their form and inject some positivity into Hibs’ hitherto stuttering season. Prediction: Hibs win
Craig Fowler: Celtic’s form after European commitments has been a little inconsistent this season - losing to Hearts and Kilmarnock, drawing with Livingston, and just scrapping by Hamilton and Aberdeen. However, they’ve also produced some of their best performances following midweek action, including a dominant Old Firm derby win, a 3-0 triumph over Hearts in the Betfred Cup semi-final and a 6-0 thumping of St Johnstone, their most one-sided result this term. A confident Hibs, even two months ago, would have been primed to cause Brendan Rodgers’ side some problems. However, with self-belief still a little shaken following the barren run, it’s hard to imagine anything other than an away win.