Saturday lunchtime in Glasgow’s west end, an eagerly anticipated, highly-charged football match is about to take place…Rangers vs Celtic!
This is box office, one of the fiercest rivalries across Europe and occasions like these are to be enjoyed despite any blood and thunder talking points that may arise.
Brendan Rodgers’ Hoops dominated last season as Rangers finished a staggering 39 points behind their rivals who could only manage third place in the Premiership. Even this early stage of the new season, a victory for Glasgow’s green and white would propel them to an 8 point advantage over their nearest and dearest.
Rangers will be keen for revenge after suffering double 5-1 league defeats and domestic cup semi-final disappointments last season.
As always with games like this there are some key battles to be contested…
Ryan Jack vs Scott Brown will see a recent Ibrox recruit come up against the tried and tested Celtic Skipper. Brown is an underrated player and can run the game from start to finish with his unique “in your face” style. Jack will have to be at the very top of his game just to compete. No matter how the games pans out, this does have the makings of a battle.
Leigh Griffiths vs Alfredo Morelos will not be in direct competition until it comes to the scoresheets. Both have shown already this season that they know exactly where the net is. First goals in games like this often set the tone and prove crucial. Back one of these two men to provide their sides with the advantage as they test opposition defences for the remainder of the match. Morelos can score goals but his hold up play and movement also look exceptional. Griffiths has become Scotland’s talisman in recent months and with Moussa Dembele back to full fitness, he has even more reason make his mark in the big games.
Pedro Caixnha vs Brendan Rodgers whilst a contest, for us isn’t a close one. Rodgers has taken Celtic to a whole new level and his counterpart thinks his club are on a whole new level. His baffling comments about having “the best squad in Scotland” and that young substitute (Ross McCrorie) from the recent game with Partick Thistle will go onto be “one of the best centre halves in history” show that he is out of his depth at a club the size of Rangers.
Expect fireworks all over the park if recent games are anything to go by, with these 3 battles only playing a supporting role in the spectacle that is the Old Firm derby. Goals, noise and red cards are generally guaranteed and this season’s 1st meeting is likely be no different. Who or what will create the talking point? Who will be the new El Hadji Diouf or fly into the hardest tackle causing a mass brawl? Scotland’s top and often controversial whistler Craig Thompson will have to earn his money covering the Ibrox turf.
The days of Rangers 9 in a row domination are long in the past and their fans can only dream of seeing players of the calibre of Gascoigne, Laudrup, Albertz and Van Bronckhorst pull on those blue jerseys again. They need to quickly come to terms that they are very much in the shadow of the record chasing “invincibles” that they share a city with.
56 games unbeaten and what chance is there of this astonishing run being ended this coming weekend? Slim to none in our opinion, whilst Rangers have improved with their foreign imports unfortunately for them…Celtic are arguably an even stronger side than they were last year!
The TV audience will be primed and ready as the game is beamed around the world – hopefully providing a further boost for the Scottish game after a recent international resurgence.
Perhaps unsurprisingly both sides have been kept apart in Thursday evening’s Betfred Cup Semi Final draw and so a potential Hampden Final is on the horizon in just a few weeks’ time. Until then we’ll have to make do with the impending high noon showdown.