While most of Scotland’s gaze may be peering impatiently at Sunday’s Old Firm clash between…
If at first you don’t succeed try, try again. That’s certainly the story of Motherwell’s season when it comes to playing Celtic. The Steelmen have faced Brendan Rodgers’ side four times this campaign and have yet to pick up a win. They get another chance on Saturday to not only defeat Celtic but also to bring silverware back to Fir Park for the first time in 27 years.
Stephen Robinson and his team will be hoping to take lessons from their League Cup final defeat at the hands of the Premiership champions. However, there is one big change to this Motherwell side from the one that lost to Celtic at Hampden in November; they don’t have Louis Moult.
Conversely, they do have Curtis Main. The Englishman arrived as a relative unknown from Portsmouth in January but has made a significant impact since arriving in Lanarkshire. He’s not as prolific as Louis Moult in front of goal but he’s certainly a threat to any side he comes up against. You only have to ask Aberdeen, who Main scored a brace against in the semi-finals, to find out how much of an attacking force he is.
The big question ahead of the weekend is can he punish the Celtic backline? We took a closer look at the numbers in order to find out.
The Motherwell frontman has shown that he’s custom made for the Scottish Premiership. He loves a battle and is extremely powerful. He may be physical and give defenders a hard time but that’s not to say he’s just a target man. Main is very mobile and has shown he has a good turn of pace and most importantly he knows how to finish.
The majority of Main’s goals come from inside the box. The 25-year-old has shown this season that he’s able to make sure he is in the right place at the right time. Whether that’s ensuring he is first to the ball in the six-yard box or finding space inside the area to get shots off. It’s hardly surprising then that he’s been most fruitful in finding the back of the net when he’s been inside the box.
That’s not to say he’s a one-trick pony. He scored a couple of goals with his head and certainly is more than capable in the air. However, when looking at Celtic’s defensive record, scoring goals from inside the 18-yard area is the best route for Motherwell to take.
The graph above highlights how the largest number of goals Celtic concede are from inside their own area. Granted that’s perhaps that’s the case for most teams, but 15 of the 25 goals the Hoops have let in have been inside the box. This certainly makes for encouraging reading for Main & Co, as close to the goal is where he is at his most effective.
If Main was primarily a scorer of headed goals then it could be argued that he wouldn’t pose as much of a threat to Celtic. After all, the Parkhead side have conceded just two headed goals all season in the league. Moreover, some of Celtic’s centre-backs have the best success rate in aerial duels in the whole Premiership. Kristoffer Ajer (71.95%) and Dedryck Boyata (71.86%) have particularly impressive numbers.
Furthermore, Motherwell are the best team in the league at putting crosses into the box. They’ve played 772 this campaign with 33.81% of them finding another player in a claret and amber shirt. This is a tactic that could prove most beneficial to the Steelmen given they have a striker in Main who is at his most dangerous in the box. Similarly, they are playing against a Celtic defence who have conceded nearly two-thirds of their goals this season from inside their own area. Whoever Celtic play at the back will need to be at their best to stop Main and his Motherwell teammates.
Main has also shown this season how he’s able to score in the big games. He was a standout performer in his side’s 3-0 thrashing of Aberdeen in the semi-finals. However, he’s also proven he can find the net against the better teams in Scotland and not just rack up goals against lowly opposition. He’s scored against Aberdeen, Rangers, Hibs and Hearts. Motherwell are undoubtedly the underdogs on Saturday, but having a player like Main in their ranks means they have someone capable of causing an upset.