Hibernian v Celtic: Can an old friend & a new face upset Lennon's cup hopes?
|Scottish Cup quarter-finals: Hibernian v Celtic|
|Venue: Easter Road Date: 2 March Time: 17:15 GMT|
|Coverage: Listen to BBC Radio Scotland and follow live text commentary on the BBC Sport Scotland website and app|
Neil Lennon says going back to Hibernian as Celtic manager will be "a bit surreal". But given the way the Easter Road side have performed since he left, he might end up looking for another word to describe it.
Paul Heckingbottom has won his first three games in charge as Hibs boss and the Edinburgh club welcome his predecessor in the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup on Saturday.
But do the Leith side have the firepower to down Celtic? BBC Scotland took a look at the numbers to find out…
Before leaving Easter Road, Lennon was exceptionally critical of Florian Kamberi's drop off in form. Following the club's 1-1 draw with Livingston in late December, the Northern Irishman said his star striker was "nowhere near as hungry as he was last season."
If such a drop off was an indication of growing tension between the two, the proof seems to be evident in Kamberi's form since Lennon departed with his goals and assists per 90 minutes having risen to 1.02. Prior to that, the striker's rate for this season was standing at 0.58 goals or assists per 90 minutes.
For one reason or another, Kamberi is now scoring or creating goals with twice the efficiency. And that new lease of life could cause Celtic problems.
McNulty hits the ground running
If Lennon wasn't already worried about a former player coming back to haunt him, he may be troubled by a goalscorer who has joined Hibs since he left. In Marc McNulty, the Easter Road club have a striker in the middle of some superb form. The on-loan Reading player is only six games in to his stint - and that small sample size should be taken in to account - but so far he has scored goals and won games.
McNulty's critical strike against St Johnstone on Wednesday was his sixth for Hibs, giving him a remarkable tally of 1.4 per 90 minutes. To put that in to perspective, that's a far greater return than Alfredo Morelos (0.67), Odsonne Edouard (0.61) and Steven Naismith (0.52) this term.
That impressive number will inevitably fall as he plays more games, but the striker is also currently top of the division for expected goals and third in the Premiership for shots per 90 minute.
'He's made a huge impact'
BBC Scotland pundit Michael Stewart on McNulty's winner against St Johnstone
He's made a huge impact. Just watch McNulty at the back. He pulls away and then runs right across the face of [Scott] Tanser, who has got to follow the run. It's a great ball from [Stephane] Omeonga and then the finish. And all-round fantastic goal. A great pass, weighted perfectly and that little finish to dink it over the goalkeeper.
Down to 10 men, to get that second goal with six minutes to go, to get the three victories in a row, to move three points behind Hearts. It's a fantastic little period for Hibs right now.