After a disappointing start to the SPL’s only ongoing European campaign, Celtic will have to pick themselves up for the Old Firm derby on Sunday. This is something I firmly believe they can do. Whilst Rangers have home advantage and advantage in terms of the games won, for the majority of domestic games this season Celtic have been playing well. One game that stands out particularly well is last week’s 4-0 thrashing of Motherwell. Should Celtic continue their run of good luck from last week, I believe the Parkhead team will be able to beat their Old Firm rivals.
Johan Mjalby will not rule out a return for Anthony Stokes and Scott Brown, who missed the clash with Atletico Madrid on Thursday night. If these players return it would be an excellent boost to Celtic. Old firm matches are the type of game Brown relishes and Celtic will need a figure of his strength on the pitch. However, if he is unavailable then it is likely that Lennon will keep Kayal in his temporary role as captain: a task he is performing particularly well, since he seems to have some good leadership ability.
If Stokes is fit, Lennon will probably return to the successful partnership of him with Hooper. Between them, the duo were Celtic’s highest scoring strikers last season with Hooper having a slight edge over Stokes. This partnership works very well together.
With Hooper’s goal scoring record he would be a perfect choice of striker for Sunday’s game. However, he plays best when in a partnership so a key decision for Lennon will be who he pairs the Englishman with. If Bangura is fit then this could be his Old Firm debut, whilst other options include Samaras, Forrest and Commons. Commons would be a good choice here although Forrest played particularly well last week and this could be an ideal opportunity for him. Samaras could add some height to the squad.
Forster has been a particularly effective goalkeeper and should be first choice goalie for Sunday’s game. This will be useful defensively, helping to keep a clean sheet whilst the previously mentioned attack will give Celtic a good chance of goals.
If Celtic win this game, they will go top of the league. Rangers are currently top of the league and have the benefit of home advantage, however this is the type of thing that Celtic do well in: since it gives them an incentive to strive for perfection. It is important that players are fresh after their European game, and because of this Lennon might rest some of the players who played on Thursday night.
Rangers have been playing well, as is noticeable by their position in the league and McCoist will want to build upon this success. Jelavic is fit and as such will be likely to play for Rangers.
In spite of Rangers’ position in the league and home advantage, I believe Celtic will relish this opportunity to go top and defeat their Old Firm rivals. For this reason, I predict a Celtic victory.