RANGERS V CELTIC, SCOTTISH PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 29THDECEMBER, 12.30
IBROX STADIUM, GLASGOW
In any good movie franchise, there is an unwritten rule that the sequel should be better than the original. At the very least, it must take the series to darker and more dangerous places. Just think about it: The Godfather II, The Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Knight – all of these sequels see their main characters plunged into deeper chaos, facing tough decisions and questioning their own place in the greater scheme of events. It follows, then, that Steven Gerrard’s second Glasgow Derby should heighten the stakes. With a damaging injury list and Celtic buoyant after a massive win at Pittodrie, this second act will be a massive test for Rangers.
Many on the blue side of Glasgow have been irked by recent claims that the Gers are overly reliant on Alfredo Morelos – undoubtedly a great talent. Away from the young Colombian, Rangers’ biggest threat is the right-side combination of Daniel Candeias and James Tavernier. Both are excellent crossers of the ball and will likely be up against makeshift left-back Johnny Hayes, seeing the Irishman under threat from the Right in a manner that in absolutely no way reflects current affairs.
If Rangers lose this match comprehensively, Steven Gerrard will be under real pressure – such is the madness of football in this part of the world. And let’s not forget: madness is like gravity – all it takes is a little push.
STATS & FACTS
Celtic have won just 4 away games in the Scottish Premiership this season.
Brendan Rodgers has won 10 out of 12 games against Rangers, drawing 2.
Callum McGregor has made more appearances than any other Celtic player this season (37).
Rangers have lost just once at home in all competitions this season.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
2ndSeptember 2018 – Celtic 1 Rangers 0 – SPFL
29th April 2018 – Celtic 5 Rangers 0 – SPFL
15th April 2018 – Rangers 0 Celtic 4 – Scottish Cup
11h March 2018 – Rangers 2 Celtic 3 – SPFL
30thDecember 2017 – Celtic 0 Rangers 0 – SPFL
Rangers are in the midst of a minor injury crisis, with Ryan Kent, Scott Arfield, Gareth McAuley and Connor Goldson all doubts ahead of the match. I expect The Gers to start mean and keen, as they will attempt to win the crowd early on with some rough challenges. Ryan Jack will certainly be useful in this regard. Andy Halliday will be preferred over Lee Wallace in the token patter-target role.
With Kieran Tierney a major doubt and Emilio Izaguirre a major bombscare, Johnny Hayes is likely to slot in at left-back as he did in the second-half at Pittodrie on Boxing Day. Tom Rogic is unavailable, after travelling to Dubai to play for a national team from a sick country that kick people with a giant boot.
- Morelos Versus Celtic: The young Colombian has been a standout player for Rangers this season, and will pose a very real threat. Much is made over his bad record against Celtic, but you do feel that he is improving and a goal against the Hoops will come soon.
- Rangers Versus Their Temperament:Rangers have a very poor disciplinary record this season – something that probably isn’t helped by their manager’s scowling attitude towards literally everything. This game requires calm, composed heads. Can they keep their cool?
- Celtic Versus Allan McGregor:The Scotland international goalkeeper has been in very good form this season, often sparing Rangers’ blushes.