Scottish Premier League: Rangers vs Celtic Preview

Two footballers compete for ball

Our Scottish football writer preview the first Old Firm Derby of the season as Rangers welcome Celtic to the Ibrox on Saturday 23 September. 

One of the fiercest rivalries in world football plays out this weekend as Glaswegian giants Rangers and Celtic clash at the Ibrox in the 409th edition of the Old Firm Derby.

Celtic head into the game as firm favourites but will have to deal with the viscous atmosphere and an under pressure Rangers team at the Ibrox on Saturday. Will the Hoops pull further clear at the top of the league or can Rangers make a statement after a less than ideal start to the 2017/18 season?

Rangers vs Celtic | Saturday 23 September | Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow | 13:00

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Rangers have endured a terrible start to the season under new manager Pedro Caixinha. The Portuguese has overseen a disastrous first qualifying round exit in the Europa League against Luxembourg minnows Progr├Ęs as well as a tumultuous start to their league campaign.

That Europa League defeat over two legs was followed by a wobbly old start to the season which sees Saturday’s hosts languishing in third, already five points behind Celtic after just six games. This has included a home defeat against Hibernian and draws against Hearts and minnows Patrick Thistle.

If Rangers are to win this game they can forget about shutting Celtic out who have been scoring for fun in the league. Instead they’ll look to the league’s top scorer, Alfredo Morelos and former Norwich hitman Graham Dorrans to grab the goals necessary to get anything out of this game.

Morelos has been a revelation for Caixinha after making the move from HJK in Finland in June 2017 for just £1m – an absolute steal for the Portuguese manager who may well have been out of a job without the Columbian’s goals. He currently tops SPL goal scoring charts on six ahead of Louis Moult and Michael O’Halloran of Motherwell and St. Johnstone.

They head into the first Old Firm Derby of the season with the Dorrans to thank for snatching a share of the spoils last week against Ross County who led 2-1 up until the 77th minute, when the centre-forward curled a magnificent shot into the top corner.

Whether or not Rangers will be able to break down a Celtic defence that has only conceded three league goals this season remains to be seen. One of the formidable pairing of Nir Bitton and Jozo Simunovic will tasked with marking the dangerous Morelos out of the game. If this is the case, it could open up avenues for Rangers’ other forward players to exploit.

Brendan Rogers surprised quite a few Celtic fans with his team selection last week in the 4-0 demolition job of Ross County. Both Leigh Griffiths and the returning Moussa Dembele started together for the first time since last season.

He also left out Scott Sinclair who played in that 5-0 defeat at the hands of PSG in midweek. The former Swansea and Manchester City man is likely to come back into the side – possibly at the expense of Griffiths who will start from the bench if Rogers is happy to give Dembele another start.

The mercurial Frenchman showed that the recent lack of match fitness hasn’t affected his game. He took his goal superbly at the weekend, receiving the ball before placing it in the bottom right corner from just outside of the box. It’s these sort of finishes that have alerted a number Europe’s biggest clubs; keeping hold of him going into next season will be a tough ask.

Craig Gordon is another who didn’t seem to let last week’s annihilation at the hands of PSG get to him too much. He was a spectator for large periods of last weekend’s encounter with Ross County until called on early in the second half to make a magnificent double save to maintain Celtic’s two-goal lead.

Lastly, we need to touch on skipper Scott Brown. The Dunfermline native embodies the spirit and the tenacity needed for such a high-intensity fixture. You can bet your bottom dollar that he’ll be flying into challenges from the first whistle trying to disrupt the Rangers engine room.

He’s such an integral part to the Rogers’ side and often flies under the radar with guys like Dembele, Sinclair and James Forrest getting all of the plaudits. Rest assured, if the skipper performs, Celtic will win this fixture.

Verdict: Celtic 9/10
The men from Parkhead are lightyears ahead of their Saturday opposition. They’re superior in every department and should win this fixture comfortably. I’m actually tempted to tip the (-1) handicap, however, the 9/10 offers enough value. Should Rangers get rolled by four or five – which is not beyond the realm of possibility – we could see a serious shakeup in management at the Ibrox going forward. 

Written by Jason Dewey for Hollywoodbets

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