Rangers vs Celtic: Who will win this weekend’s Old Firm?
In the first of two Old Firm games this month, Rangers have the chance this weekend to stop Celtic from taking a domestic sweep again.
Brendan Rodgers and Celtic have been running amok in the Scottish Premiership since the Norther Irishman took the job last summer. This season, an unprecedented double-treble could be on the cards if they can get past Rangers this weekend in the Scottish Cup.
Rangers, on the other hand, have stumbled through a chaotic season. Pedro Caixinha took charge late in the 2016-17 season and tried to change the identity of the club but early season woes led to him being replaced by former Reading defender Graeme Murty.
Can Murty and Rangers put a dagger into Celtic’s domestic dominance this weekend while giving themselves a huge opportunity to win their first Scottish Cup since 2009?
Let’s look at the key points heading into the game.
Exciting previous meetings
In September, Rangers welcomed their arch-rivals to Ibrox in what would prove to be a significant nail to Caixinha’s Rangers coffin.
The home side were dominated throughout and mustered just one shot on target while their rivals took charge of the game. Second-half goals by Tom Rogic and Leigh Griffiths gave the green-side of Glasgow a precious victory.
Rangers may have lost the first meeting of the season but their second encounter in December showed that Celtic were in fact beatable. A blistering game of end-end action somehow ended scoreless and goalkeepers on both sides put in Man of the Match performances.
Alfredo Morales was guilty of missing so many chances as Rangers failed to make Celtic pay for their dominance.
The last time these two sides met – just last month – they put on a real treat for the neutral viewer. Rangers twice led 1-0 and 2-1 but a crucial Moussa Dembele goal for Celtic on the stroke of halftime put the game on a knife’s edge.
Jozo Simunovic was sent off for Celtic on 57 minutes to give Rangers real hope that they could finally beat their rivals in a league game for the first time since March 2012.
But it was not to be for the hosts as Celtic took a 3-2 victory. Alfredo Morales again stole the headlines for the wrong reasons, missing an open net with one of the final kicks of the game.
A rivalry like no other
It is fair to say that the Rangers and Celtic rivalry is one that peaks the interest of every football fan around the world. Scottish football is not seen as a major league but this monumental fixture always gives fans excitement.
Whether it be the ferocious support, aggressive play, unpredictability or the fact that both these clubs genuinely hate each other – this fixture always feels extra special.
You will struggle to find a better derby in the world – this game truly sits with the Real Madrid vs Barcelona, Manchester United vs Liverpool and the Milan Derby as must-see spectacles for football fans.
How can Rangers win?
Even the most diehard of Rangers fan will admit that when they face Celtic, they are huge underdogs. The fact that over the last couple of seasons they have taken points from their rivals is a testament to the players who seem to be able to raise their game in this fixture.
Rangers have come close in recent years to beating Celtic: they actually did in this competition as a First Division side just a couple of years ago. On that day they played Celtic off the park with fluid football and clinical finishing.
Celtic are a different animal now under Rodgers so Rangers will be hard pressed to try to win in that manner. But if the side can raise their game to the levels we saw at Celtic Park earlier this season, then we may see a surprise victory.
The Gers can win this weekend if they are clinical in front of goal. Alfredo Morales, in particular, needs to be on his best form too as he has really struggled to put away scoring chances against the Bhoys.
Celtic are defensively loose and will always give opportunities. In previous fixtures, Rangers have not taken advantage but they will need to this weekend if they stand any chance of getting to the Scottish Cup Final.
How can Celtic win?
Celtic undoubtedly have an edge in almost every department. Solid goalkeeping, great forward quality and a midfield that can outplay everyone in Scotland. They truly are the full package in this division.
But as we have seen against Rangers in previous games, Celtic have been complacent. If Celtic are to take the victory this weekend, then they need to remember how close their rivals have come to beating them in the past.
If they can guard against complacency, then they will overcome Rangers quite comfortably.
Who do you think will win this weekends Old Firm derby? Let us know in the comments section below.