Match preview: Ross County look to upset Celtic and move into Betfred Cup quarter finals
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With pressure on both teams going into the Betfred Cup second round, Ross County may well feel that there is an opportunity to take advantage of a vulnerable Celtic in Glasgow this afternoon.
The Staggies have only ever picked up victories against the Hoops three times, but with two of those being in cup competition there is precedent for such an upset.
Recent results between the clubs have been extremely one-sided in the Hoops' favour though, and a similar outcome today will only add to the pressure on Stuart Kettlewell after am unacceptable performance against the 10 men of Kilmarnock last time out.
Ross County: Tom Grivosti will be out of action for a while after tearing his hamstring at Rugby Park last Saturday, while Ross Doohan is ineligible to face his parent club.
Jordan Tillson and Regan Charles-Cook are also injury doubts, adding to what has become an extensive group spending time on the treatment table.
Oli Shaw, Michael Gardyne, Ross Draper, Connor Randall and Carl Tremarco all missed the trip to Kilmarnock, while Callum Morris is still finding fitness, having only played 16 minutes in the Betfred Cup against Stirling Albion since returning from his own issue.
Celtic: David Turnbull is still missing for the Hoops after the midfielder tested positive for Covid-19 after returning from international duty with the Scotland Under-21s.
Leigh Griffiths is also out with a knee injury, but otherwise Neil Lennon has options at his disposal if he wants to make changes after Celtic crashed out of the Europa League on Thursday night.
Ross County: lost 3–1 away at Kilmarnock, won 3–0 at home against Stirling Albion, won 4–1 away at Elgin City, drew 1–1 at home against Livingston, lost 2–1 away at Dundee United.
Celtic: lost 4–1 away at Sparta Prague, drew 2–2 away at Hibernian, won 4–1 away at Motherwell, lost 4–1 at home to Sparta Prague, won 2–0 at home against Aberdeen.
Head-to-head (all competitions)
Ross County 3
Last five meetings
Ross County 0–5 Celtic – Premiership, Saturday, September 12, 2020
Celtic 3–0 Ross County – Premiership, Saturday, January 25, 2020
Ross County 1–4 Celtic – Premiership, Sunday, December 1, 2019
Celtic 6–0 Ross County – Premiership, Saturday, October 19, 2019
Celtic 3–0 Ross County – Premiership, Saturday, March 31, 2018
Ones to watch
Ross County: Billy Mckay – the Northern Irish striker made a difference after coming on against Kilmarnock last weekend, and while some of that was down to a change of shape against 10 men the forward also had a role to play.
Manager Stuart Kettlewell has said that he is happy to put his faith in younger players, but that needs to be complemented with the right blend of experience too, and Mckay's nous going forward will be key against a Celtic defence that are low on confidence.
The role Mckay plays helps to keep the Staggies moving up the pitch smoothly, oftentimes linking the deeper midfield players and options further up the park, giving County an option through the middle to vary their attacking play.
Celtic: Callum McGregor – the 27-year-old midfielder is usually Mr. Dependable for Celtic, even if he does not always grab the headlines in the same way as Ryan Christie or Odsonne Edouard.
With critics out in force for the club this season, while others may lead the way with goals if Celtic are to return to top form McGregor will undoubtedly have a crucial role to play.
When he plays well, the rest of the team seem to too – his three goals this season have all come when the Hoops have scored three times in the match – and if he is at the top of his game it will be a big ask of Ross County's youthful midfield to keep him quiet.
Ross County manager Stuart Kettlewell's pre-match thoughts
“We have a good history in cup competitions as a club over the last 10 or 11 years.
“Nobody expects us to win the game, but I think it’s a brilliant opportunity to try to upset the odds.
"It would be a brave man to say we’ll beat Celtic, Rangers and Aberdeen in the coming games, but I expect us to be competitive.
“We need to show steel and determination. People know I’m emotional. I can be aggressive and sometimes start a fight in an empty house and I need to bring an element of that out in everyone else. That can take you far in Scotland when you’re up against the odds.
“The players we have now are, technically, far better players than I ever was, but you need a bit of the dirty side of the game.”