Jadon Sancho – A BIG future

This week saw the unexpected yet deserved inclusion of Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho into Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the upcoming Uefa Nations League games against Spain and Croatia. With him being a relative unknown to many, it’s worth profiling this exciting attacking talent and detailing why he is in the Bundesliga and not the EPL.

Sancho, at the age of 17, made the brave decision to leave Premier League title favourites Manchester City last summer.

The Cityzens had offered fresh terms and had planned to take him on their pre-season tour of the USA in order to provide him with some game time.

Like many an Englishman before him Sancho decided that his future lay elsewhere after becoming worried that his 1st team involvement would be limited at The Etihad.

The soon-to-be England international joined City from Watford at the age of 14 and played regularly in 2016-17 in the under-18 league and the Uefa Youth League – as well as seven appearances in the Premier League 2, England’s reserve league.

On deadline day in August 2017 the surprise move to Borussia Dortmund came about.

Sancho was instantly given the squad number of 7, left vacant by Ousmane Dembele’s switch to Barcelona. The transfer fee a reported £8m.

The teenager was called up to the England Under-17 World Cup squad in October 2017, although Dortmund were reluctant to allow him to leave to represent his country at this level.

Sancho scored three goals in three group games – but was then recalled by the German club before the knockout stages on the understanding from all parties, including the FA that Sancho was about to be unleashed in the yellow and black.

Sancho duly made his Dortmund debut days later, as a late substitute against Eintracht Frankfurt, and also featured against Bayern Munich two weeks later.

England deservedly went on to win the Under-17 World Cup, with Sancho getting a winner’s medal.

He ended the season with one goal and four assists from 12 Bundesliga games, including seven starts.

The International Champions Cup competition, the new pre-season friendly threw together Sancho and City.

The winger impressed with his quick feet and ability to take men on as the Bundesliga side beat the Premier League champions 1-0 and this set him up for this current season firmly in manager Lucien Favre’s plans.

jadon-sancho-image

He has had a brilliant start to the 2018-19 season and has set up more goals than any player in the Bundesliga, the Londoner has set up six league goals in as many appearances.

Sancho has also added his name to a scoresheet with a strike in a 7-0 demolition of Nuremberg recently.

He has started both Champions League games this season.

He has set up a total of eight goals, including one in the German Cup against lower league Greuther Furth.

Rumour also has it, that he has had his wrist slapped for continuously nutmegging his team mates in training, perhaps the exuberance of youth but experience will teach behaviours.

Perhaps most importantly his form has been rewarded with a contract extension seeing him put pen to paper on a deal until 2022.

He could well be the future of the English national side and Man City’s loss could be a nation’s gain.

Image sourced from; www.fourfourtwo.com

Advertisements

Russia 2018 – The Final Showdown

32 nations arrived in Russia last month to contest the 2018 World Cup, we’ve seen some surprises amongst the shocks and now we’re left with just two nations, both desperate to get their hands on the Jules Rimet trophy.

Sunday in Moscow will see 1998 winners France, take 1998 3rd placed Croatia, in what has turned out to be an all European final. Somewhat hammering home the recent dominance to those in South America.

Image result for france vs croatia

France under Didier Deschamps appear to have put the disappointment Euro 2016 behind them by making a 2nd successive major final (just as they did back in 98 & 00) and will start the game as favourites given their navigated route and the players at their disposal. A magnificent 5th final in 20 years is something special, just like this French team.

Deschamps himself has the chance to add his name to an exclusive list – by winning the World Cup as both player and manager, only 2 others have achieved this magnificent feat before. All this, after calls for him to go during the qualification stage after a home draw with Luxembourg.

Other than a drab draw with Denmark in the last group game, Les Bleus have been impressive and deserve their final berth given the level of opposition that they’ve seen off. The successes over Belgium, Uruguay and Argentina in the knockout stages have been impressive.

With Lloris, Varane, Kante and Griezmann the spin of the side is remarkably strong and they’ll be looking to rid themselves of a disappointing extra time defeat to Portugal in the Euros.

Croatia have made the final by whatever means possible, all 3 knockout games have required settling out with the originally scheduled 90mins. Penalty defeats of Denmark and Russia were followed by a Mandzukic winner deep into extra time vs England.

Appearing in their 1st final it will be up to the likes Modric and Rakitic to impose themselves in the midfield to give the Croats any chance.

Coach Zlatko Dalic only took the post last October following the sacking of Ante Cacic, upon arriving, Dalic announced that he would only remain head coach if Croatia qualified for the tournament. Safe to say he could potentially have a job for life should Sunday’s game swing in their favour.

Past meetings

  • July 8, 1998 FRANCE WON 2-1 (1998 World Cup)
  • November 13, 1999 FRANCE WON 3-0 (International Friendly)
  • May 28, 2000 FRANCE WON 2-0 (International Friendly)
  • June 17, 2004 DRAW 2-2 (Euro 2004)
  • March 29, 2011 DRAW 0-0 (International Friendly)

History will point to a straight forward victory and a 2nd title for France and we don’t disagree with what the stats show.

We are predicting a comfortable 3-1 win for the French in a game that will prove a step too far for Croatia.

2018_fifa_world_cup_trophy_russia

All the best to both nations, let’s hope for a fitting final for what has been a great tournament.

France v Croatia Image Sourced From; www.thetelegraph.co.uk/world-cup
Russia 2018 Trophy Image Sourced From; www.theweek.co.uk

Russia 2018 – The World is Waiting

The wait is almost over, in just a few days World Cup 2018 will kick off with host nation Russia entertaining Saudi Arabia with the eyes of the other 30 competing countries watching on awaiting their chance to lay down an early marker in the competition.

We’ve looked through the squads, the stats and can provide our tips for the tournament.

Winners

For us it’s proving very difficult to look past Brazil, the 5 time winners boast Neymar, Firmino and Coutinho among their attacking threat. A favourable group draw and their tournament experience will stand them in good stead in Russia.

A tricky qualification was navigated with ease, Tite’s men finished 10, 13 and 14 points ahead of nearest challengers Uruguay, Argentina and Columbia respectively.

Despite them being prone to a big stage wobble in recent times (defeats to France, Holland and the famous 7-1 against Germany) we are backing the South Americans to wrestle back a trophy last won by them in 2002 and end the recent European dominance.

Brazil-Team.png

Dark Horses

It seems like an obvious choice and maybe not even a dark horse shout but the Belgians look in terrifying shape.

A starting XI with a spine of Courtouis, Vertonghen, De Bruyne, Hazard and Lukaku will make any opposition re-evaluate their tactics.

Unbeaten in qualification with 28 points from 30, a record only bettered by current World Champions Germany and scoring a tasty 43 goals over the 10 games proves they are in great form.

A golden generation expected to impress and justify their world ranking of 3.

The only downside for us is the manager. It’s hard to imagine a footballing world where Roberto Martinez can add a Jules Rimet trophy win to his CV.

Belguim-Team

1st Plane Home

Now whilst they may not necessarily need a plane Russia is such a vast country that a lot of players may be taking long trips home after just the 1st week of their own competition.

Injuries mean that CSKA defender Viktor Vasin and key man Zenit St Petersburg’s Aleksandr Kokorin miss out. A late call up for a 39 year old Ignashevich indicate their struggles.

You’d fancy Uruguay to top Group A leaving 2nd place to be fought out by the hosts, an unknown Saudi side and a Salah inspired Egypt. The latter being our picks to sneak into the knockout rounds.

Russia-Flag-Image

Surprise Package

Any team that comes through South American qualifying cannot be underestimated. Add into this a victory over the French back in March and you have a side that could surprise and go a long way in this World Cup.

Columbia are the side we are talking about.

Their recently announced squad are littered with players from Munich, Milan and Barca.

James and Falcao will lead Los Cafeteros but will have the likes of Carlos Bacca, Davinson Sanchez and Juan Cuadrado backing them up, not to mention their wild fanbase!

Columbia-Fans-Image

Top Goalscorer

We feel England could be coming home with a trophy this time around, Harry Kane is in with a great chance of returning with the golden boot to make up for losing his PL crown to Mo Salah.

England should progress through the group with a game to spare and you wouldn’t bet against Kane being on the scoresheet against both Panama and Tunisia.

Goals against the lesser opposition should rid the three lions of any nerves and lead them into the last 16 with a striker bang in form.

Captain Kane could notch 5-7 with relative ease over in Russia.

England v Turkey - International Friendly

Players Destined for the Post Tournament Move

We’ve picked out three to watch throughout the duration of the competition that appear destined for bigger things within the game.

Timo Werner – Germany

The young striker is currently starring for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga.

In the Germany squad and whilst he may not feature prominently he’ll provide a good option from the bench. A potential replacement for Lewandowski should he leave Bayern as expected.

Leander Dendoncker – Belgium

One of the lesser mentioned Belgian galacticos is the Anderlecht defensive midfielder. Just the 4 caps to his name currently but making the cut ahead of the likes of Nainggolan shows a lot of faith.

Don’t be surprised to see top 10 PL side make a bid in August.

Kahraba – Egypt

Despite the reports Egypt are more than a one man team.

Kahraba is the nickname of 23-year-old winger Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim, who is currently on loan at Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad from Egyptian giants Zamalek. In Arabic, Kahraba means electricity. He is a pacey direct winger and with the groups his nation find themselves in he could prove a vital part in navigating the Egyptians through to the knockout rounds.

Timo-Werner-Image

The stadiums are built, the friendlies are over and the stage is well and truly set.

We’re all hoping for a footballing summer to remember from Eastern Europe.

The world is waiting, World Cup 2018, let’s see what you’ve got!

The Brazil 2018 team image is sourced from; www.sportsbible.co.uk/football
The Belguim 2018 team image is sourced from; www.vivaonnews.com
The Russia flag image is sourced from; www.depositphotos.com
The Columbia fans image is sourced from; www.panamericaneworld.com
Harry Kane image is sourced from; www.metro.co.uk
Timo Werner image is sourced from; www.bundesliga.com

Europe vs The World – The Battle of the Best 11

With the World Cup just a few weeks away and with the best players on the planet preparing to lead their respective nations in Russia, we wondered what the best XI’s would look like if it was the EU vs. the rest of the world (ROW).

We have stuck purely to nationality and put aside their club’s locations, this way we get to keep Messi and Ronaldo on opposite sides!

Have a look, cast judgement over our sides and comment on who we’ve missed or who has no place on the pitch?

Europe XI

A strong Premier League spine to our European side with added La Liga flair.

De Gea, Kante, De Bruyne and Kane provide safe hands, phenomenal work rate, creativity and goals.

A defence made in Germany with Munich’s Hummels and Kimmich accompanied by Spain’s Alba and France’s Varane from La Liga.

Kante and new wonderkid – Asensio, in the middle with and amazing trio of Griezmann, De Bruyne and CR7 all in behind Harry Kane. Safe to say that any goal scored against the below World XI will be claimed by the Tottenham man. Now we’ve all seen Ronaldo’s tantrums when someone tries to take a goal from him!

Mentions for players missing out include Ramos, Hazard and the difficult omission of Kieran Tierney!

Onto the best of the rest World XI…..

World XI.jpeg

Perhaps unsurprisingly that the South American superpowers of Brazil and Argentina make up a good proportion of this side.

Roma’s wanted-keeper Allison has the gloves, with an interesting centre half pairing of the reliable Uruguayan Godin and solid Senegalese Koulibaly. Either side of these, there was a no contest in our eyes with Alves and Marcelo, serial winners and are both equally as good going forward as at the back.

The Midfield has been collated to counter balance their opponents. Casemiro and Vidal provide good distribution. Perhaps the most surprising inclusion of Naby Keita could be the key? The box-to-box midfielder who isn’t afraid of a challenge could nullify counter attacks.

Up top it was straight forward. Messi, Neymar and future Ballon D’or winner Mo Salah. Do we need to justify these selections? Thought not.

No Suarez, Cavani, Firmino or Sanchez – we felt they weren’t quite up to level we wanted to put against the Europeans this time.

Now remember that it’s never easy to throw out 22 options and be 100% correct, the teams are open to interpretation and change but we believe they are as close as can be.

Perhaps with all the glamour friendlies that go on pre, mid and post season we will get to see the best each side can offer – go head-to-head for a good cause and for the pure interest of every football fan around the globe.

Team images created with the Footballsilo App.

York City – The Demise of the Minstermen

On a chilly Tuesday North West evening, a near 400 strong York City diehards made the journey along the M62 to Manchester in the hope of seeing their side grab a vital 3 points in their search for a Play Off place in National League North.

What they got was an abject performance and a 1-0 defeat at the hands of FC United virtually confining them to another season in English football’s 6th tier.

This, just days after the 1-0 defeat to 10 man Gainsborough Trinity, a result which has been described as the worst in the clubs recent history.

York-City-Players-Image

The Minstermen had returned to the football league in 2012 after an eight year absence however back-to-back relegations have left them with league football being nothing other than a distant memory.

When departing League Two in the 2015/16 season they were under the charge of former Partick Thistle and Dundee United Manager Jackie McNamara. Prior to his dismissal at Tannadice, he had led the SPL club to back-to-back Cup Finals so appeared a solid choice.

After the drop and a record showing just 8 wins from 48 games, it was announced that the former Scotland right back would leave his position. However he would continue in a caretaker capacity until a successor was found. Interesting we hear you say, well just hold that thought….

Once former Manager Gary Mills was re-appointed, McNamara didn’t leave the club as originally planned. He moved upstairs and took on the role of Chief Executive.

How? Why? What?

Martin Gray is now the man in the dugout and will be tasked with leading York into next season despite the poor end to this one. The club’s Chairman Jason Mcgill and the afore mentioned McNamara have recently left the club with immediate effect leaving a new board room set up in place.

The new regime have a “challenging” campaign and “mammoth task” ahead of them according to York’s Financial Management Consultant Peter Rookes. The most recent accounts have revealed a £500k loss. Gray has added that he is happy to see an end to “open cheque book” recruitment and is urging the board to pay salaries more in line with sixth tier standards.

With ex-league players such as Aiden Connolly, Josh Low, Michael Rankine and big Jon Parkin in their ranks, York do have all the ingredients to start the painful climb back up the pyramid. They only have themselves to blame for currently mixing it with the likes of Brackley and Curzon Ashton.

On a brighter note, work has started on their new home. An 8,000 all seater community stadium at Monks Cross will see football and rugby league combine to strut their stuff at the start of the 2019/20 season. Surely the club will be determined to depart Bootham Cresent on a high and head into their new home in a higher division?

York-Monks-Street-Stadium-Image

The club is up for sale with interested parties having only a few days left to declare an interest. Hopefully better times ahead for those 400+ that made the long journey home after trudging away from FC United last week.

York City Players Image Sourced From; www.yorkpress.co.uk/sport
York City Monks Cross Image Sourced From; www.thenonleaguefootballpaper.com

Atletico Madrid – Striking Sensations

With prodigal son Fernando Torres leaving the club at the end of the season and heavy speculation linking Antoine Griezmann with a move away we felt it was worth taking a look at the wealth of striking talent that Atletico Madrid have had, let go, re-signed and will soon be struggling to hold onto!

Now removing the obvious glacticos of Messi, Ronaldo and Mo Salah (he deserves a mention in any footy topic these days) and Atleti have had the best of the rest at one time or another.

Athletico-Madrid-Scorers.jpg

Take a look below and the names on this list and their goals / games ratios:-

Player Games Goals
Antoine Greizmann 205 110
Fernando Torres 397 127
Diego Costa 153 70
Kevin Gameiro 79 26
Sergio Aguero 234 101
Diego Forlan 196 96
Radamel Falcao 91 70
Mario Mandzukic 43 20
David Villa 47 15
Total 1442 634

There is clearly something special about the goal scorers who pull of those famous red and white striped shirts in the Spanish Capital.

Currently boasting an attacking force of Griezmann, Torres, Costa and Gameiro they are gunning for Europa League glory with only Marseille standing in their way.

Their prior goal machines will equally be household names to many.

Aguero, Forlan and Falcao have had stints in the Premier League with mixed fortunes and the world Cup winner David Villa was captured for under £5m to see out his final years in La Liga.

Rewind to the end of the previous decade and you’ll find the days of Christian Vieri and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, these two had a combined record of 62 goals in 75 appearances in the late 90’s.

Not to mention a cost-cutting measure of closing their youth academy cost them Real legend Raul!

They have recently moved to the Wanda Metropolitano and will be hoping their frontmen feel equally at home here as they used to be at the Vicente Calderon.

Atletico Madrid striker image sourced from; goal91.com

Andy Robertson – From Amateur to Anfield

Another 3 points gained under the Anfield lights on Saturday evening and another outstanding performance from one of Liverpool’s star men.

Nope we’re not talking about Salah, Mane Mane or Bobby Firmino because it’s all about Robbo.

The left back who has made the position his own and is quite rightly receiving the plaudits he deserves.

Just 5 years ago Andy Robertson was playing for Scottish 3rd Division side Queens Park, a club in which he signed for after having been released by Celtic for being too small earlier in his career.

His move to Dundee United saw him instantly catch the eye of many north of the border. A renewed contract was agreed within just weeks of his debut and shortly followed by being awarded PFA’s “Scotland Young Player of the Year” and a subsequent place in the PFA “Scotland Team of the Year” for the 2013-14 Scottish Premiership season.

Andy-Robertson-Dundee-United-Image.jpg

All of this convinced Hull City to swoop with a near £3m bid to get their man, United accepted and the Left Back was on his way to the EPL.

3 seasons with Hull under the stewardship of former Man Utd stalwart Steve Bruce allowed him to gain what is deemed acceptable experience in England and it was Liverpool who won the race for his signature.

An absolute bargain at a reported £8m and his dream debut season is showing no signs of slowing down.

He has even earned the approval of Kop legend Stevie G. He told BT Sport: “He’s done terrifically well since coming in and the fans have taken to him. It’s not just about Luis Suarez and Fernando Torres, the top players that come, the fans love someone who gives 100 per cent.”

“He’s come in and he’s a very humble kid and gives it his all every game. To be fair to the kid. He’s been excellent.”

His lung bursting closing down run vs Man City made him a social media sensation but for those who have watched him for the past few years this was nothing out of the ordinary.

International recognition has obviously come his way and with 20 caps already under his belt, his partnership with Kieran Tierney gives The Tartan Army a strong looking left side for years to come.

He’s has never given up and has taken every chance that has come his way.

One of the signings of the 2017/18 season has undoubtedly been Liverpool’s Number 26.

Andy-Robertson-Liverpool-Image

Andy Robertson at Dundee United Image is sourced from; www.dailyrecord.co.uk
Andy Robertson at Liverpool image is sourced from; www.liverpoolfc.com

West Ham United – The Bubbles are Bursting!

They stayed in the Premier League when it was most important to, they had the new stadium on the horizon and they even had Payet….Then it all started to go horribly wrong for those once happy hammers.

Now we are left to pour over the ridiculous images that Saturday’s 3-0 defeat to Burnley.

Club captain Mark Noble tackling a supporter to the ground, another invading the pitch in an attempt to impale a cleverly gained corner flag into the centre circle and all this whilst various fans decided to knock lumps out of each other.

As Chris Wood notched his late double, crowds gathered to vent their anger towards the Director’s box, objects were thrown forcing Messer’s Gold & Sullivan to head for cover. One of the photos of the weekend saw a lonely Sir Trevor Brooking seemingly facing the reality in which he was surrounded by. You just know that he felt their pain and wouldn’t have dreamt of walking away.

Noble-West-Ham-vs-Burnley

Earlier this season saw a decision made to replace an initially popular Bilic with an immediately unpopular David Moyes. His post-Everton work leaves a lot to be desired and with an initial 6 month deal on the table, it was “make or break” for both the Scot and the board of the London Stadium.

Did we also mention that the Manager has three Assistants? Alan Irive, Billy McKinlay and Stuart Pearce.

So now let’s just have a look over some of their financial dealings…

A measly £2.5m in rent for a brand new 60,000 seater stadium – however there are add on’s if they win the Champions League, FA Cup or finish in the top 5 of the division. So to sum up, a grand total of £2.5m will be paid per year! Unless they suffer relegation then it will be halved to £1.25m. Seriously, flats in the same city are sold for more!

The Hammers do not have to pay for a range of things including policing, stewarding, goalposts, corner flags, cleaners and turnstile operators. Heating and lighting costs will also be covered by the stadium Managers.

Moving onto transfers since the demolition on the good old Boleyn ground or Upton Park if you prefer and you’ll see a good level of frugality:-

Notable Players In Reported Fee Notable Players Out Reported Fee
Andre Ayew £20m James Tomkins £10m
Arthur Masuaku £6m Dimitri Payet £25m
Jose Fonte £8m Darren Randolph £5m
Robert Snodgrass £10m Ashley Fletcher £6m
Marko Arnautovic £20m Sofiane Feghouli £4m
Javier Hernandez £16m Diafra Sakho £8m
Jordan Hugill £9m Andre Ayew £20m

A net spend of just £11m?! An unacceptable figure I think most PL fans would agree, especially when you take into account the non-existent layout for the purpose built Olympic venue they now call home.

Premier League - Watford vs West Ham United

As the new terrace chant goes “so f**k off Gold & Sully, where’s our f*****g money, it’s all lies, lies, lies.”

The start of 2018 has seen a them struggle past League One Shrewsbury in the FA Cup before being dumped out by similar opposition in the form of Wigan.

League-wise, 4 defeats from the last 5 coupled with the afore mentioned Burnley defeat leave them looking over their shoulder from their current Premiership position of 16th and leaves them hovering precariously just above the dotted line.

March has been a disaster thus far and was always going to be a make or break month with 6 pointer after 6 pointer. 3 homes and just the solitary away with 90min battles against the likes of Southampton will ultimately decide their 2017/18 fate.

The recent arrival of an ageing Patrice Evra will hardly send the fans into hysteria. If the disgraced former Marseille man and Man City recruit Pablo Zabaleta start a game together, the combined age of the full backs will be 69! The likes of Salah, Sanchez and Sane will destroy them down the lines.

Can they avoid the drop? Will Moyes still be in place for the new season? Will they get the fans back on side?

So many questions and the 3 owners need to look at changing their entire philosophy or Baroness Brady may just be hearing some words to which she is all too familiar with – in the shape of “you’re fired!”

Mark Noble image is sourced from; www.talksport.com
West Ham board image is sourced from; www.indianexpress.com

Agueroooooooooo!!!

The little man from Argentina has just become Man City’s all-time record goal scorer, his recent strike vs Napoli has seen him overtake Eric Brook’s record that has stood since 1940. 178 and counting…

A previous 177 goals in just 262 appearances shows that despite all of the 100’s of millions of pounds worth of talent and many players to have walked through the door at the Etihad, he is by far and away their best ever investment.

The reported £38M paid to Atletico Madrid in 2011 has proved to be a drop in the ocean in comparison to others signed – not just by the Citizens, but by most other their Premier League competitors.

From the moment that Aguero left the bench on an August Monday night against Swansea it wasn’t difficult to see why he’d been brought to Manchester. Netting twice and setting up David Silva to volley home was a debut to announce himself to all who didn’t know of him already.

He’s helped fire the blue side of a City to 2 x league titles and 2 x league cups, should they have won more? Perhaps. But so far this season they look unstoppable so that trophy haul could be about to significantly increase.

We have seen Pep Guardiola cast doubt over whether he was the right man for him during his 1st season overseeing the light blues but the clubs No 10 has remained professional (Amsterdam taxi crash aside) and formed a deadly partnership with young pretender Gabriel Jesus.

He isn’t showing any signs of slowing down either – 33 goals in 45 appearances last season and 11 as we enter November this time around.

There is also some element of the record being smashed in the Champions League, with all due respect to Wolves, a tap in during extra time of a league cup tie just wouldn’t have felt right. He has helped turn City into one of Europe’s most feared attacking forces so a strike in the most highly regarded club competition feels a touch more fitting. He was purchased to turn the Etihad side into what they are today and he has more than repaid the fee.

Anyway putting all of this aside who can forget THAT moment that he provided us with against QPR. 93.20 a moment that will go down in football history, a moment that won a title, a moment that possibly created a footballing super power.

Aguero-Image

Sergio Aguero, a true Premier League Legend!

Image sourced from; citykicks.mcfc.co.uk

The Old Firm – A Derby Like No Other

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.

Celtic-5-Rangers-1

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!

Lee-Griffiths

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.

Celtic vs Rangers 5-1 score image sourced from; www.thescotsman.com
Leigh Griffiths image sourced from; www.thedailyrecord.co.uk