Celtic v Ross County

Celtic manager Ronny Deila

Manager Ronny Deila will leave Celtic at the end of the season

BBC coverage

How to follow:Listen on BBC Radio Scotland 92-95FM; live text commentary on BBC Sport website

Dedryck Boyata is a doubt for leaders Celtic’s Scottish Premiership meeting with Ross County on Sunday.

Boyata came off with a knock in last week’s Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Rangers, and fellow centre-back Jozo Simunovic is already out.

Ross County are without the suspended Andrew Davies and Martin Woods, while Craig Curran has concussion and Jamie Reckord has been released.

Jackson Irvine returns from injury for the Highlanders.

Reporter’s notes

Celtic have had a week of the heaviest turbulence and now they face one of the sides that helped push manager Ronny Deila through the exit door – their League Cup semi-final conquerors, Ross County.

These sides have met four times this season. Nobody really remembers the three league matches – all won by Celtic on a combined score of 8-1.

It’s the events at Hampden that spring immediately to mind. That madcap day when Jim McIntyre’s team secured a victory that did much to destabilise Deila until Rangers added the knockout blow last weekend.

Celtic Park could have been an angry place on Sunday if it wasn’t for the announcement of Deila’s imminent exit.

Instead, a bear pit of frustration is likely to be more timid, more respectful of a departing manager who gave his best while finding that his best was nowhere good enough to take the club forward.

If there is recrimination, it will only come if Celtic toil again and, in that scenario, the guns are likely to be trained on Peter Lawwell, the chief executive, rather than Deila.

These are fractious and uncertain times at Celtic Park. The club could do with a resounding victory against County, one that will see them coast the remaining distance to their fifth league title in a row.

The visitors won last time out, 1-0 against Partick Thistle, and it was needed. It got them into the top six and brought to an end a poor run following their Hampden glory against Hibernian in the League Cup final.

In their three games directly following their historic day at the national stadium, they failed to win any of them. They drew 1-1 with St Johnstone but then lost 3-0 to Inverness and 5-2 to Dundee.

Alex Schalk got their winner against Partick Thistle to halt the slide. Schalk has replaced the once-prolific Liam Boyce as County’s main goal threat.

Boyce has 18 for the season, but only one of the 18 has come this year. Bizarrely for one so impressive in the first half of the campaign, Boyce has only scored once in his last 14 matches.

Celtic suffered a seismic loss last Sunday and nearly every one of their players has been pilloried in the days since. Unless they have completely lost the plot, their professional pride must be hurting badly.

If it is, then we can expect a response. It’ll be far too late to save their manager, but a win would at least, more of less, guarantee that Deila will leave town next month with another title to ease his pain.


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