Old Firm Preview – A must win for Rangers
Celtic and Rangers have been at the top of Scottish football for decades. The Old Firm is the pinnacle of football in Scotland and serves as a true advert for the Scottish Premier League. They are the two most decorated sides in Scotland, with Rangers having won the Premiership 55 times while Celtic have won it 51 times.
With seven games left of the season and Celtic three points clear at the top, it really is in the hands of the side in green. Rangers are looking to retain the title, but they will need a victory in the Old Firm to stand any chance. Rangers haven’t won the SPL back to back since 2009-2011. While Celtic won the SPL a whopping nine times in a row between 2011 and 2020. Rangers were away from the top flight for a large period of Celtic’s dominance due to repercussions of financial debt in 2012.
Celtic took full advantage of their rivals’ absence and went on an outrageous winning streak, including an invincible season under the management of Brendan Rodgers. Rangers were desperate to get back to challenging and did so last season with their own invincible league season. Former Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard played a large part in this as manager and earned himself a big Premier League move to manage Aston Villa.
Both sides are in decent form heading into this fixture. Celtic have won each of their last four games in all competitions, sweeping aside St Mirren 2-0, Livingston 3-1, Ross County 4-0 and an impressive win in the cup quarter finals beating Dundee United 3-0.
Rangers have also been doing very well as of late, their results have been largely flawless. They beat Dundee both in the cup and in the league as well as knocking out Crvena Zvezda over two legs in the Europa League. This has given them a European quarter final vs Braga to look forward to in the near future. This is both a blessing and a curse for Rangers though, as having the extra fixtures can definitely take its toll and have an impact on their league challenge. Celtic’s absence from Europe will most definitely give them an edge in their title charge.
Players to watch
Greek Giakoumakis has been in very good form recently, his most recent Celtic appearance saw him bag an emphatic hattrick versus Ross County. He has scored nine goals and assisted once in fourteen SPL appearances this season. It’s fair to say he has been something of a revelation for Ange Postecoglou’s side. He is not the first Greek to be successful for the Hoops, you may remember Georgios Samaras who played for Celtic from 2008-2014.
Alfredo Morelos has been brilliant for Rangers ever since he signed back in 2017. He has hit double figures for goals in every SPL season he has played in. He is somewhat of a fiery striker, very old fashioned in that sense. In the 2018/19 season he was given four red cards! He has become a fan favourite in Glasgow and will be looking to strike Rangers closer to back to back SPL titles. He has also been deadly in the Europa League, bagging five in eleven.
Another Celtic man who has the potential to light up the Old Firm, is Portuguese Jota. The 23 year old is on loan from SL Benfica but Celtic do have an option to buy and a Celtic stay looks likely for the winger. This can only be good news for Celtic fans as Jota has been brilliant for them. He has been directly involved in 18 goals in 27 appearances in the SPL and UEL this season. His dynamic dribbling and playmaking abilities make him a handful for defenders.
James Tavernier may be a right-back, but this does not mean he can’t cause problems for opposing defences. The Englishman is club captain and wears the armband with pride. He has been likened to Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold and Chelsea’s Reece James who are both also known for their attacking prowess from the right-back position. It is likely that Tavernier will be coming up against Jota, which is set to be an amazing battle. Tav has made 233 league appearances for Rangers, scoring 54. Incredible stat for a defender.
Last time out at the Old Firm
In an SPL season each team plays each other a guaranteed three times and this game will be the third meeting between the sides this season. But how did the previous fixtures pan out?
Rangers 1-0 Celtic
In late August of 2021, Rangers and Celtic met for their first battle of the 21/22 season. Rangers hosted the game at the Ibrox Stadium. The game was very intense and both sides created chances. Celtic controlled possession for the majority and looked the better side in large spells of the game.
This game also took place before their star striker Odsonne Edoaurd was sold to Crystal Palace. Despite this, Celtic couldn’t materialise their possession into goals. Edouard came remarkably close but failed to convert his close range chance. Ryan Kent was lively for Rangers but it was centre-back Filip Helander who made the difference. His powerful header was enough to help his side squeeze past their rivals 1-0.
Celtic 3-0 Rangers
Months later in February 2022, the sides finally met again. This time Celtic were hungry for vengeance. They needed the win for their title hopes and for local bragging rights. This time, the battle was on their turf, Celtic Park.
It was another set-piece goal to kick things off, a Celtic corner was partially cleared by Rangers only to Reo Hatate who was waiting for it around the edge of the 18 yard box. He placed the ball into the bottom corner in what was a very cultured finish. Celtic continued to pile the pressure on Rangers, forcing some excellent saves from McGregor in goal.
McGregor saved the close range efforts well, but it was another outside the box strike that got the better of him. Hatate struck again just three minutes before half-time with a curling effort, beating the keeper at the near post. Celtic were not finished either, a cross that sailed over almost everyone in the box was met by Liel Abada who volleyed home to give Celtic a three goal cushion before half-time. This was enough to see them through to the final whistle. A massive win that took them back to top of the table.
Who is favourite to win?
Rangers will need to be well up for the game, because they simply cannot afford to lose if they want to win the title. A six-point gap with six games to go will just be too much to overturn. A win for Celtic will put them in great shape to reclaim the Scottish football crown. Another positive for Rangers is that loanee Aaron Ramsey looks as if he will be fit to play after playing for Wales. The Welshman is yet to set Scottish football alight, but really has the chance to make himself a feature of Rangers folklore if he is able to inspire them to the SPL title.
It is one of the most important Old Firm games in a while and its hard to pick a definitive favourite. Both sides just have so much to play for!
Where to Watch the Old Firm Live on TV in the UK
The game will be shown on both Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event. Kick-off is at 12:00, and it’s set to be a thrilling game at Ibrox!
Author: Jude Sutcliffe