April the 17th will see two massive clubs play out one of the most hotly contested local derbies in World football. Celtic v Rangers is an event like no other and let it be known that this game will light the touch paper for the 2016/17 season.
To the surprise of many Scottish football fans the 2 big guns came out together in the draw when most expected the much laughed about “hot and cold” balls to be placed into the pot.
The prospect of an Old Firm Final just before Rangers make the long awaited re-appearance in the top flight we assumed would be too good an opportunity for the SFA to overlook. How wrong we were!
Since Rangers demotion to the Scottish 4th tier in 2012 these 2 rivals have met only once, In the League Cup Semi Final of 2015. Rangers were no match for Celtic either on the park or off it a year ago but this time around they are a different proposition.
Rangers have rid themselves of a lot of deadwood and players not capable of producing a Championship title at the 1st time of asking last term. They had paid big wages and carried the likes of Ian Black, Bilel Moshni and Steve Simonsen for too long the new management team of Warburton and Weir have cleared the decks and brought in their own men. Mainly raiding Wigan Athletic for 3 solid footballers who have settled well in Glasgow.
Over in Glasgow’s East End this could quite easily be seen as one of Ronny Delia’s last act’s as Celtic Manager. His 12 moth rolling contract will once again be up for review at the end of the season and with a poor European performance (Europa League – Played 6, won 0), League Cup Semi defeat to Ross County and a strong title challenge from Aberdeen still on the cards, it is difficult to make a case for him being given another season. Speculation is rife with David Moyes and even Ryan Giggs being mentioned for the role, Delia is not and never will be the man for Parkhead.
The game itself will be set up perfectly by the time it comes around, Rangers have secured the Scottish Championship title and will be determined to prove many doubters wrong by upsetting the bookies and making it to the final. Celtic will still have one eye on the league and will undoubtedly be under pressure to dispatch of their fiercest rivals just like last year.
3 battles on the day will be key to deciding who will play either Hibs or Dundee United in the 144th Final…Griffiths v Wilson – Brown v Holt – Delia v Warburton.
Next season will see at least 3, more likely to be 4 Old Firm games return to our screens and it fair to say they have been missed. They are looked forward too by millions around the world and really should be mentioned in the same breath as El Clasico, The Manchester and Merseyside derbies.
The football on show may be looked down upon by some but you’d struggle to name a poor game between these two giants.
Back to the impending duel however…Hampden will be packed to the rafters, the respective ends will be in full voice and make no mistake both sets of fans will be arriving expecting to leave victorious. Celtic are there for the taking in our opinion and this alone should make for a fantastic Semi Final.
As long as the players and fans behave then roll on Sunday 17th April!