Why it’ll be damage limitation at Ibrox on Saturday
The Old Firm is one of the most iconic fixtures in world football. While Celtic and Rangers have had contrasting fortunes over the past few years, the rivalry between the two Glasgow clubs still remains. But as Rangers welcome their rivals to Ibrox on Saturday lunchtime, they must be realistic about what they can get from the game, writes David Ronney.
Football’s infamous ‘Old Firm’ fixture is something fans across Scotland and the world look forward to. In the past, it’s been title deciding thrillers and cup final spats but in recent years it’s moved away from that. Rangers, in their first season back in the top flight, were left in the dust as Celtic brushed them aside on their quest for the unbeaten treble winning season, and it could be more of the same this campaign.
One of the biggest embarrassments for Rangers when they last hosted their rivals, apart from the 5-1 score line, was how Jozo Simunovic’s lunging tackle took Kenny Miller out the game. The tackle itself was shared widely across social media to the dismay of Rangers supporters, a reminder that they still remain leaps and bounds behind the Hoops.
The two clubs met a total of five times last season with Celtic scoring 15 against their Glasgow rivals, and Rangers netting only four. The only positive result the Gers managed against Brendan Rodgers’ side was a 1-1 draw at Parkhead under Graeme Murty, their second of three managers that season.
Celtic underwent a feeling of déjà vu this week as they beat both Ross County and Dundee both by a 4-0 score line in the league and league cup respectfully, giving them great momentum and a degree of confidence heading into Saturday’s match. Rangers on the other hand struggled to beat Partick Thistle twice in the one week, having to wait until extra time in the league cup to finish the job.
With Pedro Caixinha’s two leading defenders, Bruno Alves and Declan John, looking like they could be unavailable for the Old Firm, the Rangers manager could be fearing the worst for his side’s defence. Another blow for the side in blue is the potential lack of leadership as captain Lee Wallace’s injury last Friday has ruled the left-back out for two months. Rangers have already conceded eight goals this season and people wouldn’t be wrong to think that number could rise come Saturday.
While both Caixinha and Rangers fans would love to see Celtic’s unbeaten streak come to a halt on their turf, they must be realistic about what they can get from Saturday’s meeting. Rodgers’ side don’t look like they’ll be taking their foot off the gas anytime soon but with Rangers’ injury crisis and a Champions League game midweek, the Northern Irishman could field a team some may not expect.
If Rodgers fields an unfavourable defence then it’ll be up to Columbian striker Alfredo Morelos to capitalise. The 21-year-old has netted eight times in his last eight appearances but despite this, issues with controlling his temper could mean he may be more of a liability than an asset when he faces off against Celtic.
Nevertheless, Caixinha should be out to ensure that the magnitude of score lines witnessed last season will be nowhere in sight this campaign.