Outside of derby encounters, though, it is extremely rare that they are not the team to have cross border distractions as they fulfill domestic commitments. Instead that will be the scenario for their forthcoming opponents Hearts. The Tynecastle men face the decidely tough test of heading into Sunday’s cinch Premiership trip to Celtic Park straight off the back of the Swiss first leg of their Europa League play-off against FC Zurch this evening.
The Scottish champions captain Callum McGregor doesn’t pretend that this might not prove a factor in the meeting with the Gorgie men, for which Ange Postecoglou’s men have had a full week to prepare owing to their direct entry to the Champions League group stages. Yet he also believes that in captain Craig Gordon, Hearts have an influential performer with all the experience and the game-chops to help his team handle the tricky situation. The six years that the 39-year-old spent with Celtic has made sure of that. Not that McGregor doesn’t see real potential for his team to cash in on the scheduling strains of the visitors to Glasgow’s east end this weekend.
“The play-off games will be huge for Hearts and they have a really important league game in between,” he said. “It’s like the roles have been reversed this time. We’ll try to take advantage of that as much as we can by getting the tempo up and we’ll see what their fitness levels are like.
“Craig will know all about it. He’s a top goalkeeper and I’ve worked with him for many years for club and country. He just keeps showing it and he seems to get better and better year after year. He’ll be a big presence for them in Europe and domestically. Craig will use his experience in Europe and we know what he will be like when we are up against him this weekend. We’ll need to be at our best to get past him and get a positive result.”