Tynecastle has been a ground where they have suffered pain in the recent past – manager Neil Lennon was assaulted there last May and the team were beaten on their most recent visit in October – but the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League has looked incapable of being wounded and they are favourites to beat Hearts in Edinburgh tonight.
That can quickly change, and facing Hearts on their own manor remains one of the division's most formidable fixtures, but Celtic go into the match on a run of 15 consecutive wins across three domestic competitions. "They are quite capable of doing some damage to us," said Lennon yesterday, but his tone was respectful rather than anxious.
Hearts officials made him feel at home on Sunday when he visited their stadium to witness the draw with St Johnstone in the William Hill Scottish Cup. It was a world away from the events of May 11 when a supporter, John Wilson, leapt from the main stand to attack him during the corresponding fixture last season. Wilson was jailed for eight months for breach of the peace, having controversially not been convicted of assault aggravated by religious prejudice. Wilson won't be back tonight – he was banned for life by Hearts – but inevitably the episode will hang over the fixture for a while.
"I have no concerns about going back there at all," said Lennon. "I was there on Sunday and they treated me really well. It doesn't even enter my head, it's consigned to the history books. The guy has had his case and done his time. Let's move on."
Celtic have moved on from their October defeat in some style. They lost 2-0 that day, goals from Rudi Skacel and Ryan Stevenson sending them down as Kris Commons was sent off. Although 3-0 down in their next game at Rugby Park – as the vultures circled over Lennon – they rallied to salvage a point and they have not lost to a Scottish team in any subsequent match. In just four months, Lennon has gone from questions about whether he could survive as manager to comparisons with Martin O'Neill's record run of consecutive league victories.
"Martin's team in 2004, the one I played in, won 26 in a row in the league I think so we're a long, long way from that. It's not about the record, it's about winning at Tynecastle. It's about trying to extend the gap over Rangers. We're going to a very difficult environment against a team that's been playing quite well recently, so it's a good game for us to play to keep us on our toes. The game in October does feel like a long time ago. It wasn't a good day, but I think we've come quite a way since then."
Celtic have impressed in several respects in recent weeks but a question mark will hang over the team until they see the job through and win the league for the first time since 2008. Lennon is extremely mindful of what happened in last season's run-in, when the title was in their own hands only for them to lose in Inverness and surrender the initiative to Rangers.
Did the past three months' results show that his players were now tougher and less prone to unexpected falls? "I think you are always walking a tightrope with that because you are only one adverse result away from people saying they are not mentally strong enough. But over the last couple of years I think the players have shown they can cope with the big games and the pressure, and with being behind and with being ahead. So I've no real worries. Anything can happen in a game of football. But their concentration levels have pleased me."
He did not wait to be asked about Scott Brown before volunteering him as the chief driving force during the 15 consecutive wins. In a nutshell, the captain is Lennon's type of player. "He's a tough boy. He's not dirty and he doesn't go around elbowing people. Sometimes he has a few verbals. But he is a hardy boy. You see him out there in the snow with his top and his T-shirt off, running about. He doesn't feel a thing. He's like one of those boxers in terms of durability, it doesn't matter how many hits they take they keep coming back at you."
Lennon was a better player than Brown – his distribution, intelligence and ability to read a game were all superior – but one thing they have in common is a tendency to impress managers more easily than supporters. "You never please everybody all the time," said Lennon. "Even in the team we played in, people would have had their objections to myself or Thommo [Alan Thompson] or Johan [Mjallby] or Bobo [Balde] or Chris [Sutton] - probably the only exception would have been Henrik [Larsson]. But I certainly think Scott is making people think again. In the interim period, when I took over from Tony [Mowbray] as manager, he was absolutely fantastic. And you don't lose that."
Pawel Brozek is in the squad and the Polish internationalist has a chance of coming on for his debut. Perhaps he will make a startling impression, but it seems far more likely that if Celtic are to win again it will be through a performance with the character and strength epitomised by their captain.