On Sunday, Ibrox will play host to the first Old Firm Derby of the season. As a Rangers season ticket holder, I will take my seat in the stadium in a state of anticipation and anxiousness as the two great rivals battle it out.
Rangers go into the game as leaders of the SPL and of course they are also the champions. Whilst the defeats in Europe to Malmo and Maribor respectively, were an embarrassment and should have been avoided by Ally McCoist’s men, in the
league Rangers have gone quietly and efficiently about their business.
After a turgid opening day draw against Hearts, where they had to come from behind to get a point, Rangers have won their last 5 games in the SPL, four of them being away from home.
The performances have hardly set the world on fire, but the defence marshalled by new signings Dorin Goian and Carlos Bocanegra haven’t conceded a goal in the last five league matches, something which Rangers were very successful at doing under Walter Smith and this seems to have continued under Ally McCoist.
The best performance so far from Rangers this season was easily the 3-0 away win to Motherwell, where the Ibrox men were fluid in their passing and 2 of the goals from Kyle Lafferty and Gregg Wylde were fantastic strikes.
Despite not hitting top form in many games this season, Rangers are top of the league and for that reason alone shouldn’t have any reason to be fearful of Celtic on Sunday.
Many of the new signings have bedded in extremely well and should relish playing in their first Old Firm derby, if they get the chance. As I mentioned, the defence has been resolute and in particular I have been impressed by Romanian Dorin
Goian. With his 6ft5 presence and his willingness to go for any ball, Goian already looks a bargain at £750,000.
He should be one of the first names on McCoist’s teamsheet and I have no worries that he will keep Celtic’s potent strike force whoever it may be at arm’s length throughout on Sunday.
Behind the defence will of course by outstanding goalkeeper Allan McGregor. In the Old Firm game last April, McGregor’s penalty save from Georgios Samaras was a pivotal moment in helping Rangers to three in a row and his brilliant ability to make big saves, will once again be vital on Sunday.
In midfield, McCoist has some big decisions to make over selection, but one certain starter is Steven Davis. The Northern Ireland star has been superb since arriving at Rangers three years ago and at his best dictates games from the middle of the park. This season, he has also taken the captain’s armband in David Weir’s absence and he is arguably playing even better with the added responsibility.
Up front, Rangers were handed a massive boost earlier today when it was confirmed star striker Nikica Jelavic WILL be fit for the game. Despite only scoring one goal against Celtic last season in four appearances, as a Rangers fan I am
delighted he will be leading the line instead of the enigma that is Kyle Lafferty.
Jelavic will be supported by Steven Naismith, who has been superb for club and country this season and will be eager to grab his first goal against Celtic for Rangers.
Celtic have looked strong at points this season and in particular I was impressed with their 5-1 and 4-0 hammerings of Dundee United and Motherwell respectively. On the other hand, at times they have been disappointing, most notably against St.Johnstone at home where they crashed to a 1-0 loss.
It will be interesting to see how Neil Lennon lines his team up for the game. On many occasions, he has favoured Samaras in a lone striker role, which worked perfectly when he scored 2 goals at Ibrox last season but I am convinced Lennon will start Gary Hooper and possibly even hand an Old Firm debut to Mo Bangura.
Celtic are sweating on the fitness of captain Scott Brown, who would be a major loss for the Parkhead side, but I rate midfielders such as Beram Kayal and Ki Sung Yeung as bigger dangermen than the Scotland star.
This is of course Ally Mccoist’s first Old Firm derby as a manager and he will be keen to put down a marker at this early stage. This is something Rangers have done in the last four years on the day of the first Old Firm game.
2007- Rangers 3 Celtic 0
2008- Celtic 2 Rangers 4
2009- Rangers 2 Celtic 1
2010- Celtic 1 Rangers 3
The Rangers players have every chance of making it five wins in a row. Whilst defeat for Rangers wouldn’t be disastrous, as a fan there are few things worse in life than losing to Celtic, especially at home. I want to have the ability to send bragging rights via text. I want to celebrate with my friends after the game and I want to be going into University on Monday with a grin on my face. The opposites don’t bear thinking about. Believe me, I have been there and done it over the years.
So I hope McCoist has the team fired up and ready to step up and play on Sunday so Rangers grab another famous victory over Celtic. And as a for a prediction? I don’t predict these games; I just hope the Ibrox men always win!