In theory, the champions are more vulnerable after their energy has been drained by demanding qualifiers or group games in the Champions League, but that is not showing in their results. So far they have been much better at coping with European comedowns than they were last season.
They have beaten Ross County, Aberdeen, Dundee United and now St Johnstone after being in Europe, with only Inverness Caledonian Thistle holding them to a draw at Parkhead. St Johnstone came surprisingly close to a share off the points, too, the surprise being that they made a contest of it at all having been two goals down after half an hour and a clear second best for three quarters of an unremarkable match.
Celtic dread complacency. Manager Neil Lennon is doubtless fed up even being asked about it, given that it rears its head around every game such as this. He tore into his players in the dressing room after what he considered an unnecessarily hairy closing few minutes during which St Johnstone scored, hit a post, had a penalty claim and put Celtic on the back foot for the first time in the afternoon. Celtic had been in control but their passing became careless as the second half unfolded and they offered the Perth side a lifeline.
"The manger had a bit of a go after the match, but the boys knew," said defender Charlie Mulgrew. "We were disappointed that we didn't see the game out better and keep the ball a bit better in the second half. The manger wasn't best pleased with some aspects. If they didn't know already, then some of the new boys might now have their eyes opened up to the expectations at Celtic and just what British football is all about. You've got to win the battle, then earn your right to play your football."
There will be days when Derk Boerrigter terrorises SPFL Premiership defences but he did not impose himself enough on St Johnstone. He played wide of a midfield three with Mulgrew and Scott Brown, with Anthony Stokes, Teemu Pukki and Kris Commons further forward. Pukki looks a compact, bright finisher and has two goals from his first three appearances, although how Frazer Wright and goalkeeper Alan Mannus allowed his low shot to go through them into the net was a bit of a mystery. When a Stokes pass was intercepted by Murray Davidson and the ball ran loose, Mulgrew instantly fired in a crisp, low finish for Celtic's second - in contrast to an incident against AC Milan. "In the San Siro I had an opportunity to shoot but instead I passed it and it's never been out of my mind since," he said.
His side eventually ran out of steam against St Johnstone and must ensure their heads are right for tomorrow night's Scottish League Cup tie against Morton. On the face of it the prospect of an upset is minimal, but it is only 10 months since Arbroath drew at Parkhead in the Scottish Cup. "It might be a so-called low-key game but we won't be treating it that way," said Mulgrew. "The manager will have us at it 100%. Morton nearly won promotion last season so it will be a difficult game and they'll come to Parkhead looking forward to putting on a show, so we'll need to be ready to match that and not take our eye off the ball."
There were plenty of Celtic fans who started leaving after 80 minutes on Saturday and missed the mild drama of the visitors recovery. Liam Caddis scored before Stevie May sent a header against a post and Steven MacLean claimed a penalty. Lennon said he dived, Tommy Wright denied it and said Lennon should mind his own business. The pair are pals.
"I don't know if the AC Milan game resulted in them tiring a bit," said May. "But we put the pressure on and can be happy with our performance in the end. The boys know the first half wasn't good enough. There was a massive contrast between both periods. But we came out of our shell in the second half and once we got our goal it lifted us as a team and we believed in ourselves."
Wright felt MacLean's experience and ability to hold up the ball made him a better option than May at the front of their 4-5-1. The 20-year-old was a second-half substitute. "The gaffer is developing me and is trying to protect me so all I can do is perform when I get the chance and try and give him a problem," May added.
The club where he improved while on loan last season, Hamilton Academical, await St Johnstone in the League Cup tomorrow.