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Match Preview: Rangers v Celtic – Let the Football do the talking!

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In the run up to the first Glasgow derby of the season, all the talk has been about last season’s incidents, as well as this morning’s back page headline in the Daily Record. But let’s talk about football rather than the issues surrounding the game.

Rangers currently top the SPL table on 16 points, one ahead of rivals Celtic on 15 after six games. Celtic travel to Ibrox looking for their fourth successive away victory in the SPL this season and to continue their unbeaten run at Ibrox from last season into this new campaign. While Rangers

Rangers managed by Ally McCoist in his first ever Old Firm game as manager, welcome back Croatian striker Nikica Jelavic from injury. Lee McCulloch, Alejandro Bedoya and Sasa Papac have also been passed fit. However captain David Weir, Lee Wallace, Jamie Ness and Kyle Bartley are all out.

Celtic welcome back skipper Scott Brown and striker Anthony Stokes after missing out against Atletico Madrid on Thursday night, while defenders Badr El Kaddouri and Daniel Majstorovic are also available.

Last season the record between the two sides in all competition stood at: two Rangers wins, three Celtic wins and two draws. But in these games the bragging rights are as important as three points, but this season is important for both managers with Lennon admitting himself that he needs to win the league otherwise he runs the risk of losing his job and McCoist in his first season as Rangers manager, could also see it be his last if he finishes second to Lennon.

Potential Line-ups

I fully expect Ally McCoist to stick to a 4-4-1-1 formation with Naismith the link up player between the midfield and Jelavic, however he does have a tendency to drop deeper in games, making the formation seem more 4-5-1.

Lafferty always poses a problem to any defence, even Celtic’s and it will be the job of Mark Wilson and Scott Brown to try to prevent the Northern Irishman from being a dominant force in the game. Likewise on the right flank, Rangers new boy Juan Manuel Ortiz will be facing off against Joe Ledley and Celtic’s new signing Badr El Kaddouri. Unlike Kaddouri, Ortiz has flattered to deceive at times and is less of a threat – in my opinion – than youngster Gregg Wylde who caused Celtic numerous problems in last season’s League Cup Final. El Kaddouri in his first showing against Motherwell, showed good attacking prowess, but the derby game is a different story altogether and his role as a defender will be tested to the max.

The middle of the park will be where the game is won and lost, as Davis and Edu should line up against Ki and Kayal. Despite being on the losing side on Thursday night, Ki proved that he was a class act as he looked the best player on the park for Celtic, against a side who spent more money on one player than the players Celtic and Rangers have in their squads. Kayal as ever will be an important player for Celtic and as ever will get stuck into some tasty challenges alongside his skipper Scott Brown.

Rangers attack force will comprise of the lone striker Nikica Jelavic – supported by Steven Naismith – he proved a threat last season to Celtic, especially in the League Cup Final, and despite his poor start to the season this term, the Croatian cannot be afforded the luxury of space and time. So Celtic’s defensive duo of Charlie Mulgrew and Kelvin Wilson – the latter making his debut also – will have to keep a watchful eye on the striker. But the real threat from Rangers will be Steven Naismith, who has scored four goals in the league this season.

At the other end, Celtic should start with two strikers – Hooper and Stokes – upfront. Although for some reason Neil Lennon always fancies Georgios Samaras in this fixture, but after last season’s penalty miss – which effectively gave Rangers the advantage in the title race – Samaras should be watching the game from the bench. The partnership of Hooper and Stokes works better than any other for Celtic and last season they scored a total of 35 goals between them in the league. This season Hooper and Stokes have scored six goals between them. With both strikers in fine form already in the league, the Rangers defensive duo of Carlos Bocanegra and Dorin Goian – both making their debuts – will find it tough going. Both players do have vast experience at domestic and international level outside of Scotland, but the Glasgow derby is in a league of its own, with the atmosphere known to wreck the debuts of many an experienced player.

Both Fraser Forster and Allan McGregor, will be called into action on numerous occasions tomorrow and both could ultimately win the game for their respective sides. McGregor last season pulled off numerous superb saves in the derby matches to secure a vital point for Rangers, while Forster despite his youthful age has learned from his experiences last season – both good and bad – and could provide his own fair share of top quality saves.

The Referee

Referee Craig Thomson will certainly have his hands full tomorrow. This season he has dished out thirteen yellow cards out of three SPL games, with one card being shown to Ki in Celtic’s 5-1 win over Dundee United on the 13th August. He also handed two yellows to Jordan McMillan and Kyle Lafferty in Rangers’ 3-0 win over Motherwell on the 21st August.

Last season in the Glasgow derby matches he officiated – three in all – he handed out 17 yellow cards and one red card. In the 2nd January clash at Ibrox, Celtic saw four of their players handed a booking – Mark Wilson, Charlie Mulgrew, Beram Kayal and Georgios Samaras. While Rangers saw two players booked – Kyle Lafferty and Madjid Bougherra.

In the League Cup Final, Celtic saw Mark Wilson and Charlie Mulgrew both booked, while Emilio Izaguirre was given his marching orders in the last-minute of extra time. Rangers had Sasa Papac, Nikica Jelavic andEl Hadji Diouf booked.

And in the 24th April clash at Ibrox, Rangers saw David Weir & Sasa Papac booked and Celtic had Beram Kayal, Georgios Samaras and Anthony Stokes booked.

In those three clashes – both clubs won a game each and the third was a no-score draw.

Conclusion

The Derby is set to be a very tasty encounter as ever and hopefully we shall be talking about the football, rather than any controversial decisions or incidents that overshadow our game once again. Scottish Football at this moment in time needs this game to be all about the football, rather than the violence and the sectarian issues that surround such a contest.

Poll

What is the Glasgow derby result going to be?

  • Celtic win (70%, 105 Votes)
  • Rangers win (21%, 32 Votes)
  • Draw (9%, 13 Votes)

Total Voters: 150

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Editor’s Prediction

It is going to be a close affair, but I can see Celtic’s attack causing untold problems for the debutant Rangers central defensive pairing, therefore I will go for a 2-0 victory for Celtic.

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About Author

scotzine

Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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