THE Premiership title race may still only be around the halfway stage, but Celtic could be forgiven if they were eyeing tomorrow night’s trip to face Kilmarnock with a little trepidation. After all, at this same juncture last year, Rugby Park was the venue where the wheels started to come off Rangers’ bid for glory, and where, a few weeks on, an injury-time swing of Scott Brown’s boot gave Celtic the win that all-but settled the destination of the league trophy for another season.

Those memories are still fresh for Callum McGregor, who isn’t underplaying the importance of this fixture for his side as they prepare to visit the stadium where title dreams have often been realised for either side of the Old Firm, and on occasion, where they have been buried.

“I think that was probably a big moment in the title race last year,” McGregor reflected. “We went right to the death and we managed to get the winner.

“I think it’s important just to try to win these games. Sometimes in the second half of the season, maybe the quality of the football goes out the window a little bit. As long as you’re winning the games, that’s all that matters.

“There are certain grounds that you go to that you know will be sticky, but we need to go and do whatever we can to get the three points. We understand that, we’ve managed to go there in the past and get big wins like we did last year, which came at probably the right time.

“We know what it’s like to go there and win, and obviously we know we have to go and win the match again.”

The parallels between this point in the current campaign and 12 months ago are striking, and memories of the way Celtic roared back from their winter training camp in Dubai to pull away from the threat of a rampant Rangers at that time are providing encouragement to McGregor.

“I think both teams have been going strong, and will be looking at getting a good run together after the winter break to see where it takes them,” he said.

“Obviously, we’re no different, we want to win every game. There’s a responsibility to win every game at Celtic anyway.

“Us coming back, we know Dubai has been good for us in the past and with that freshness after the break we’ve managed to go on a bit of a run.

“We want to try to do that again, and come the end of the season, we want to be the ones at the top of the league.”

The statistic about McGregor being the most used player in world football over the past two seasons is as well-worn as his favourite pair of boots, and perhaps that is why he is happy enough to see Celtic potentially adding another midfielder this week in the shape of Ismaila Soro.

“I welcome competition,” he said. “It’s always good, especially at a big club.

“If he comes in, we will see what he is all about. But we want him to come in and help the team. That will push everyone else on as well.

“As long as I feel good, I want to play. I don’t want to be taking too many rests. The idea of it is probably that but as long as I feel fresh and good, I want to stay in the team.

“The more competition will kick my standards on to push and stay in the team.

“I feel like I’m at a good age. I’m young enough to play in every game but I’m also experienced enough to manage games when you can if you are ahead and not go too gung-ho when you’ve got another match coming up.

“When you’re at a big club and playing 70 games a season there’s a responsibility on you to be ready to play every single one of them if you can.”

Sunday’s Scottish Cup draw that paired Celtic with Clyde may look favourable on the face of it, but memories of 2006 will keep McGregor and his teammates honest when the tie rolls around.

“I was at the club, but I was probably just a wee bit too young to remember the actual fallout from it,” he said.

“Obviously you remember the result and everything that came with it.

“Certainly this time around we’ll not be wanting any shocks.”