|Venue: Tony Macaroni Arena, Livingston Date: Sunday, 6 March|
|Coverage: Listen live on BBC Radio Scotland & follow text coverage on the BBC Sport website and app|
The Tony Macaroni Arena – where Livingston proudly dine out on their record of turning Celtic’s legs to spaghetti.
A trip to the West Lothian venue – and its much-maligned surface – has become a source of dread for Celtic fans scarred by futile past visits.
Their team’s latest trip on Sunday (12:00 GMT) comes amid a nerve-fraying title race where any points dropped could be calamitous.
Can Celtic end the hoodoo, or will European hopefuls Livingston extend their five-game unbeaten home record against the Scottish Premiership pacesetters?
Three managers foiled in five meetings
Since Livingston’s return to the top flight in 2018, three different Celtic managers have tried and failed to emerge from the Lions’ den with victory.
In those five meetings, Celtic have drawn three and lost two. Livingston have kept the visitors scoreless three times.
In the same timeframe across various competitions, Celtic have won at venues ranging from Rangers, Hearts and Aberdeen to Lazio, Sarajevo and Ferencvaros.
Yet a mere half-hour jaunt along the motorway to Livingston has them beset with travel sickness. Livingston revel in making life difficult for the illustrious visitors. Their tight, narrow, artificial pitch – the only non-grass surface in the Premiership – and stout defending have suffocated Celtic’s attacking efforts.
Even all-conquering Brendan Rodgers, who hoovered up all seven available trophies during his Celtic tenure, couldn’t knock down Livingston’s yellow wall, settling for a 0-0 draw with the feisty newly promoted hosts in November 2018.
Neil Lennon was at the helm for the next three, then it was Ange Postecoglou’s turn this season, losing 1-0 in September. The last time Celtic won in West Lothian? A 4-1 Scottish Cup canter back in 2007.
‘Plans go out window when you get punched in face’
Celtic’s defeat in Livingston this season was a third loss in their opening six Premiership games as Postecoglou’s tenure and rebuilt squad endured an unsteady start.
They haven’t lost since in the league, though, and head east this time as the Premiership leaders on a 23-game unbeaten run, looking to re-establish their three-point advantage over Rangers.
While Celtic’s recent performances have been well below their turbocharged, coruscating peak, they have proved adept at grinding out victories, a goalless stalemate at Hibs apart. That was one of just four draws in their current run.
Livingston was another – David Martindale’s men escaped with a point from Celtic Park in October – and Postecoglou is well aware another “punch in the face” could be looming on Sunday against opposition his side haven’t mustered a goal against in two meetings.
“Livingston are well drilled and structured, so that makes them hard to beat,” the Celtic boss said. “We’re under no illusions, it will be a challenge for us.
“I get that people think we should be going in with a clear plan every week to beat the opposition, but in football, and in real life, plans get thrown out the window when you get your first punch in the face.
“What we have done is taken the blows and kept going and that’s what we have to prepare for. We haven’t played them for a while. I think both teams have evolved a bit since then.”
Livi underdogs ‘thrive off big occasion’
While Postecoglou’s Celtic try to chase down the title, Martindale’s mind is occupied with a third consecutive top-six finish for Livingston and the windfall it promises.
The new year has brought fresh impetus for the side whose achievements outstrip their means with one of the smallest budgets in the Premiership.
Since the winter break, Livingston have taken 17 points – a haul bettered only by Celtic – and find themselves in fifth after taking down Dundee United at home in midweek, and are level on points with Hibs, who occupy the final European spot.
“Getting into Europe or even the top six brings extra money through crowd revenue and probably gives you a wee bit more money to try to entice the players you have at the club to stay,” Martindale said.
“We have spoken about it as a group and we have four cup finals until the split.”
It won’t quite match the elation of lifting a trophy, but another upset on Sunday will rank highly for Martindale, who reckons Postecoglou’s crop are incomparable to previous Celtic sides his men have sent home with their tail between their legs.
“I genuinely think it’s a different Celtic team,” he said. “Ange is playing some of the best football I’ve seen a Celtic team produce.
“Ange’s recruitment has been bang on and he has done a wonderful job. We’ll go into it as the underdog and give it our all. Our players thrive off the big occasion.”