Paul Hartley believes Celtic’s capture of former Dundee United duo Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong during the January transfer window has proved to be a “key moment” in this season’s title race.
The Dundee manager takes his players to Parkhead tonight to face a Celtic side who know if they beat the Dark Blues and Aberdeen fail to win at Tannadice tomorrow, they will be crowned champions.
Hartley is aware just how formidable a task his players face, especially with Armstrong and Mackay-Steven in the Celtic ranks, however he is determined his team will go there and act as party poopers.
He said: “Celtic are a good team and obviously have their confidence back.
“I think the two guys they brought in from Dundee United have given them a real boost in terms of their energy and quality in the final third.
“They have been impressive. Celtic play a certain system that doesn’t really change but the personnel within it can. I’d probably expect some changes from their game at Tannadice last week but they can afford to do that.
“I think signing those two boys has been a key moment. It’s given them great pace from the middle and wider areas.
“They already had a lot of quality but I think that gave them a real boost and more options.”
While Celtic will start as overwhelming favourites this evening, Hartley insists his side can cause an upset but only if they take the game to Celtic and be brave on the ball.
He added: “We’ll go and try to be as positive as we can. There is a lot of talk about Celtic winning the league title if they get the victory and Aberdeen don’t win. Obviously, they just want to try and win the match first.
“We’ll try to express ourselves. We have done OK against them and had some decent performances. So we will go there and try and play our own game.
“You hope the Celtic players maybe get a wee bit nervy. They are at home and are strong there but we just hope we catch them on a bad night.
“We need to be brave and get on the ball. We can’t just sit and try to defend for the whole of the game.
“I have seen a few games recently where teams have ended up just camping in a bit but you can see why that happens with Celtic.
“I thought the earlier game down there was one of our better performances away from home. We passed the ball, got in about them and created chances. We’ll need to do the same and play positive football.
“It’s a game the players should really relish. It’s the team at the top of the table and there should be a good crowd and a good pitch at Parkhead. “We have done quite well against them so far and played some good stuff, so we want to try and put on a performance for our fans.”
Dundee will be without the suspended Greg Stewart along with Paul McGowan who cannot play because of his restriction of liberty order while there are injury doubts over James McPake and Iain Davidson.
However, Simon Ferry, Gary Harkins and Gary Irvine all return to the squad after recovering from injury.