CELTIC head into arguably their biggest game of the season so far against Salzburg at Parkhead on Thursday night with their confidence sky high after thrashing Ladbrokes Premiership leaders Kilmarnock 5-1 at home on Saturday.

A James Forrest double and goals from Odsonne Edouard, Mikael Lustig and Ryan Christie secured an emphatic victory that propelled Brendan Rodgers’s men to first place in the top flight table.

They now need to draw with or beat their Austrian rivals, who drew 2-2 with Admira away at the weekend to extend an impressive unbeaten run in the 2018/19 campaign to 29 games, to progress to the last 32 of the Europa League.

Steve Clarke’s side, meanwhile, will look to bounce back from the heavy loss against Dundee at Rugby Park in the league this Saturday after spending less than three days in top spot

So what did we learn from an unlikely top-of-the-table encounter between Celtic and Kilmarnock in the East End of Glasgow?


The Scotland man’s inspired displays in the deep-lying midfielder role while his club captain was out injured led to suggestions that he might be retained in the position long-term.

That proved to be the case at the weekend. Rodgers fielded his strongest side against Clarke’s team and there was no place in it for Brown.

The skipper, who had been sidelined with knee and hamstring injuries, got on for the last 13 minutes when he replaced Christie. But it appears unlikely he will get the nod to start against Salzburg

McGregor, who had been preferred in the Betfred Cup final six days earlier, was once again instrumental in the win. The Salzburg game will probably be his sternest test to date. But it is one he believes he is ready for.

“Playing there internationally and against Leipzig was a step up as you are tested defensively,” he said. “But the more I play there, the more comfortable I feel. I am still learning in there, but it’s good to be playing that position at a high level in Europe.”


Salzburg are one of only three teams to have won all five of their Europa League group games along with Chelsea and Eintracht Frankfurt. They eased to a comfortable 3-1 win against Celtic at the Red Bull Arena at the start of October. But the Glasgow club can beat them.

They were missing key players in their previous match and had to field Jack Hendry at centre half and Youssouf Mulumbu in midfield. But Dedryck Boyata is the only regular first team starter they are without on this occasion. And Jozo Simunovic is a more than adequate replacement at centre half. Kieran Tierney, who sat out the game at the weekend, should be fine.

Christie, McGregor and Tom Rogic are all playing to a high level on a consistent basis. If Rodgers’s men can play with the same tempo and fluidity as they have in meetings with RB Leipzig, Rosenborg and Kilmarnock in recent weeks and replicate their finishing then they can triumph and go through.


Clarke stressed after the match on Saturday that neither he nor his players had suggested Kilmarnock could win the Scottish title after they had gone top of the Premiership with their 2-0 win over Livingston on Wednesday night.

It was just as well. This defeat, the first the Rugby Park club have suffered against their Parkhead rivals on his watch, underlined the gulf in quality with the defending champions remains vast. A top six place, possibly a European spot, is the best they can realistically hope for.

“You never know what we can achieve,” said Kilmarnock right back Stephen O’Donnell. “We are a hard-working bunch of boys and there is quality in the squad, so it will be interesting. If we get into Europe we will have over-achieved.”

The Ayrshiremen actually played well in spells. But the loss of the experienced Kirk Broadfoot, who suffered a head injury in midweek, was costly. It is unlikely the presence of the former Rangers and Scotland defender, though, would have prevented a defeat being suffered by his team.


The winger took his tally for the season for Celtic and Scotland to 16 with his double against Kilmarnock and was unlucky not to net a hat-trick. He admitted afterwards he is in the best form of his life. It is hard to argue Salzburg will need to make nullifying the threat posed by the diminuitive flyer a priority on Thursday night.

If Forrest keeps performing to such a high level in the second half of the season he will challenge strongly for the Player of the Year awards which are handed out in May.


The Honduran, Scotland’s Player of the Year back in 2011, was drafted in to the side shortly before kick-off when Rodgers decided to rest Kieran Tierney.

The left back soon showed he has lost none of his skill or fitness with an individual display that was remarkable in the circumstances. He is a more than able deputy in his specialist position.