Dundee United haven’t won at Parkhead for exactly 14 years, with that last time coming on Boxing day 1992, when a Duncan Ferguson goal gave United a 1-0 win during the 1992/93 season.
Since then Celtic have beaten Dundee United 24 times at home , with only 4 draws, but the last meeting of the two sides in Glasgow was an amazing 3-3 which United could have snatched away in the closing stages.
John Hartson gave Celtic an early lead in the 9th minute of the match, but former Celt David Fernandez equalised just 5minutes before halftime.
In the 2nd half, Celtic looked home and dry after Maciej Zurawski & Stilian Petrov gave them a 3-1 lead, but late strikes from Lee Miller and David Fernandez again made it 3-3.
Craig Brewster’s Dundee United were the better side for the first 45mins, and deserved not be losing at half-time, but Celtic can create chances out of nothing and lapses in concentration at the back gave Maciej Zurawski an unmarked header and no closing down gave Stilian Petrov a long range effort for Celtic’s 3rd.
However, it was the inspired substitution of Lee Miller on for Derek McInnes in the closing stages that changed the match by giving United more firepower upfront.
Miller had a few half-chances which might have made things worse for Celtic, but Miller has since left Tanandice and with Noel Hunt out injured, it will probably be left to Collin Samuel and/or David Goodwillie to take United’s chances this time round.
Noel Hunt (who turns 24 on Boxing day) scored the opening goal for Dundee Utd the last time they played Celtic at Tannadice earlier this season, but Celtic won out convincing 4-1 winners, a result which was almost the final nail in the coffin of Craig Brewster’s managerial career.
A hat-trick from Japanese hitman Shunsuke Nakamura gave Celtic all 3 points, so Dundee United will have to keep a close eye of the talent frontman during the Boxing Day clash.
One man who might have to keep Nakamura at bay is Christian Kalvenes who will return to the squad after suspension, following his red card against Motherwell at Fir Park.
“It’s a big plus having Christian back, he’ll give us a bit better balance,” said Craig Levein.
Runaway SPL leaders Celtic are currently 16 points ahead of 2nd placed Rangers and the United defence will need to be on top form to prevent them finding the back of the net.
Although, Craig Levein admits that he’s finding it difficult working out which is his best defensive line-up, but this is not the game to have doubts about any of your defenders, because any weak link will be exploited by Gordon Strachan’s side.
“We are getting there in midfield and up front and I have a pretty good idea of my best middle three and front three. But even if you put a gun to my head I couldn’t tell you what our best backline is.”
“Even though we’ve been winning I’ve not been happy at the way we’ve defended in quite a lot of games. We’ve not hit on the right defensive formation as yet.”
“It’s open for people to come in and grab this by the scruff of the neck and as I thought Garry Kenneth did well on Saturday he is now at the forefront.”
Celtic Team News:
One main advantage for Dundee United will be Celtic losing Neil Lennon through suspension, after his bizarre sending off against Falkirk only a few days earlier.
Captain Lennon appeared to try to headbutt Falkirk’s loan striker Anthony Stokes, after he accused the Celt of diving for a penalty late in the match.
Strachan will also be without striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, midfielder Shaun Maloney and former United winger Mark Wilson, who is out for 8 weeks with a knee injury.
“There seem to be no new injuries. Jiri Jarosik was the only player who took a knock against Falkirk but he should be OK,” said Strachan.
Player to watch: Shunsuke Nakamura
Scoring a hat-trick against Dundee United at Tannadice isnt the only reason United should keep an eye on this talent Japanese player.
He’s got a great curling shot from free-kicks, makes some great runs to make space for his teammates and can create chances out of nothing for Celtic.
A great crosser and passer, he has a good reading of the game and has to be watched by the United defence at all times.
Dundee United Team News:
Birthday boy Noel Hunt(ankle)
Steven Robb (hamstring)
Player to watch: Craig Conway
Despite missing an open goal against Hearts, the former Ayr United winger has been playing well in recent months and is causing problems for most defensive with his attacking play.
Hopefully some of his crosses will find Collin Samuel unmarked in the box to give United a chance to take at least something away from Parkhead.
Match Facts & Stats
Last 5 meetings:
Dundee United 1-4 Celtic
14th October 2006, SPL
Venue: Tannadice, Dundee
Referee: Mike McCurry
Noel Hunt (5mins, Dundee Utd)
Shunsuke Nakamura (44mins, Celtic)
Shunsuke Nakamura (48mins, Celtic)
Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink (52mins, Celtic)
Shunsuke Nakamura (58mins, Celtic)
Celtic 3-3 Dundee United
28th January 2006, SPL
Venue: Parkhead, Glasgow
Referee: Mike Ritchie
John Hartson (9mins, Celtic)
David Fernandez (40mins, Dundee Utd)
Maciej Zurawski (49mins, Celtic)
Stilian Petrov (67mins, Celtic)
Lee Miller (82mins, Dundee Utd)
David Fernandez (86mins, Dundee Utd)
Dundee United 2-4 Celtic
30th October 2005, SPL
Venue: Tannadice, Dundee
Referee: Alan Freeland
John Sutton (2mins, og, Dundee Utd)
John Hartson (17mins, Celtic)
John Sutton (28mins, Celtic)
Collin Samuel (30mins, Dundee Utd)
Alan Archibald (32mins, og, Celtic)
Steven Pearson (88mins, Celtic)
Celtic 2-0 Dundee United
06th August 2005, SPL
Venue: Parkhead, Glasgow
Referee: Iain Brines
John Hartson (37mins, Celtic)
Craig Beattie (88mins, Celtic)
Celtic 1-0 Dundee United
28th May 2005, Scottish Cup Final
Venue: Hampden Park, Glasgow
Referee: John Rowbotham
Alan Thompson (11mins, Celtic)
Brian Winter – 2nd Dundee United match he’s handled this season, with the first being the 1-0 win over Saint Mirren at Tannadice last month.
Incidentally the only Celtic match he’s refereed this season was also against St Mirren and also ended in a victory to the home side, with Strachan’s side winning 2-0.
Both matches ended with 2 yellow cards, but no reds shown.
Dundee United struggle to score at Parkhead, the recent 3-3 draw is an obvious exception, but both goalscorers from that match have both since left – with Lee Miller freed to join Aberdeen and David Fernandez just freed.
Most Dundee United supporters don’t even travel to Parkhead anymore – not just because of the awful way visiting supporter are treated by the home fans and the stewards – but because it’s a long way home if your teams just been beaten by a cricket score.
Celtic 3-0 Dundee United
Dundee United vs Aberdeen (30th Dec)
Motherwell vs Celtic (30th Dec)