Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou has warned the rest of the Premiership his side are ready to be at their strongest in the final stage of the season with the league title and Scottish Cup on the line.
The end of the international break means an uninterrupted stretch of domestic games between now and the conclusion of the season.
Celtic have nine league games in that time and a semi-final date against rivals Rangers to prepare for and their manager thinks the team can hit their stride when it matters.
“We’re looking at it from a yearly planning perspective and this is where everything gets decided so you want to be in a really strong position at this point, he said. “I think we’ve achieved that.
“The second part is that you want to finish the season strongly and that’s what we did last year. Our best form and when we were at our strongest was at this part of the year. That’s been our plan all along.
“I think if you look at the first stretch of games, and then post-World Cup, I think we were stronger than we were in the first section. The plan now is to be stronger in this third and final section.
“That’s all theory and we’ve still got to get down to the practicalities of doing it.
“From the players’ perspective, this is the first day we’ve had them all back but they’re ready to go and they understand what needs to be done between now and the end of the season, beginning with Sunday.”
Postecoglou welcomed players back from playing for their countries and assessed his squad ahead of the trip to Ross County, admitting some players won’t make the game and some may be struggling to be fit for the following week’s derby.
“The ones who are definitely out, James Forrest is still a fair bit off,” he said. “Tony Ralston and Liel Abada picked up injuries with their national teams and it’s fair to say they will be a couple of weeks.
“Reo (Hatate) and Aaron (Mooy) are back in training but we will assess it on Saturday before we make a decision.
“I would suggest if it’s not this weekend, that they will probably be right for next weekend, but we will just see how they go.
“Everyone else is okay.”
The manager also had words of praise for Celtic captain Callum McGregor, who won his 50th Scotland cap against Cyprus and played a major role in the victory over Spain.
“I’m pleased for Callum firstly because I know how much it means for him to play for his country,” Postecoglou said.
“As much as he is the captain of our club and the leader of our club, he just cherishes his national team representation.
“It was a big night for him, a big night for the team and a big night for the whole nation, I guess.
“It’s great because it builds belief in the whole group.
“I don’t think there is any doubt that Callum can perform at those levels but for him to do it with his national team is special.
“So you take great pride in that and we take great pride as a football club as well because he is our leader and he represents us on the national stage.
“I thought he was outstanding in both games, he played every minute.
“You saw in the last couple of minutes in the second game, he just has this real ability and determination to get every ounce out of his body, and that’s what he does every time he plays.”