Kilmarnock vs CelticScottish Premiership, KO: 19:45 Jan 22, 2020, Rugby Park
CELTIC couldn't have asked for a tougher venue to visit than Rugby Park as they look to get their title bid back on track against Kilmarnock.
Losing at home to Rangers for the first time in nine years was the worst possible way for the Hoops to sign off before the winter break.
The Ibrox side can now hit the Premiership summit if they win their game in hand so Neil Lennon's men can ill afford any more slip-ups, especially with the next Old Firm game being held at Ibrox.
And after beating Partick Thistle in the Scottish Cup on their return from the winter break, a treacherous trip to Killie's plastic pitch awaits in their first Premiership game back.
It was Rangers who had to head to Rugby Park last year after the winter break and a 2-1 defeat saw their title bid start to unravel.
Both Old Firm teams have poor records at Kilmarnock in the last three seasons, with Celtic losing on two of their four visits and Gers suffering three defeats and a draw in their six trips.
So Lennon will know his side need to show character to grind out a win on an awful pitch that makes flowing football almost impossible.
How the bookies view it
Despite their superb recent record against the Old Firm, and a thumping 6-0 win over Queen's Park in the Cup at the weekend, Kilmarnock are as big as 11/1 with Ladbrokes. That might attract a few punters but if Celtic are to slip up a draw is more likely at 9/2 with Betfred.
The Parkhead side are 2/7 with most firms but if you double it with both teams to score the odds soar to 66/25 with Marathonbet. I backed Celtic to beat Partick to nil at the weekend only for an injury-time penalty to ruin that bet.
Lennon's defence didn't look convincing on the rare moments Thistle tested them so Killie could get a bit of joy, although Kris Ajer should return after being rested for the cup tie.
Recent head to head
Celtic have won the last four games between these sides but Kilmarnock were a bogey team for them before that, going four matches without defeat.
A last-gasp strike from Scott Brown gave the Hoops a 1-0 win over 10-man Killie on their last visit to Rugby Park (below) but they lost 2-1 in Ayrshire earlier that season thanks to another injury-time goal, this time from Stuart Findlay.
Players to watch
Lennon changed his tactics against Partick, sacrificing width to go with a midfield diamond as he played Leigh Griffiths alongside Odsonne Edouard up front.
And he has tweaked it again at Rugby Park, going with a back three but staying with twin strikers. I tipped Tom Rogic to score at Firhill and although the Aussie drew a blank he was Celtic's best player.
I fancied the midfielder is 5/2 with Paddy Power for anytime scorer here but he hasn't even made the squad so must have picked up an injury. Instead try Olivier Ntcham, who is 7/2 with Unibet as he will probably be the most advanced midfielder in Lennon's 3-5-2 system.
Former Rangers winger Chris Burke was Killie's main man in the Cup rout of Queen's, claiming an astonishing six assists. The bookies haven't priced up that market yet for this game but Burke is 19/2 with Unibet for a goal and that might be worth a speculative bet.
Anything else catch the eye?
There has been a goal in the last five minutes in six of the last eight games between these sides at Rugby Park. Betway are offering 21/20 on the last goal here being scored after 76 minutes and that looks good value.
Goalmouth action has been thin on the ground on this fixture, with five of their last six Rugby Park meetings having under 2.5 goals. A repeat here is priced 21/20 with Marathonbet and that could be worth a punt.
This Scottish Premiership match between Kilmarnock and Celtic will be played on Jan 22, 2020 and kick off at 19:45