With little under a month to go until Rangers and Celtic face off against one another in the League Cup semi final at Hampden Park, are Rangers fans really fearful of facing their greatest rivals?
Rangers defender Steven Smith has come out in the press claiming that the Ibrox club’s fans are dreading the game, because of the team’s inability to win the big games this season.
Smith said: “Everybody has got their opinions and are entitled to them. The fans will probably be dreading it because in the big games this season, we haven’t done well. We know that but we will deal with the Celtic game when it comes. I started thinking about it as soon as the game got drawn, to be honest.
“But with the results we have been having and the way we have been playing, I don’t think we can think about it too much. We have got to take every game as it comes. I know that sounds like an old cliché but maybe if we were playing well we could look forward to it a bit more. But we aren’t.”
His comments are certain to anger Rangers supporters and is a sign that all is not well in the changing room at the club. In previous years, no Rangers player would ever dare to utter such words before the derby and maybe just maybe the players are feeling the strain also.
The last time Rangers played Celtic was in April 2012 and it was nothing short of a party on and off the field for Celtic as they won 3-0 on the pitch and the fans mocked and celebrated the Ibrox side’s financial collapse off it.
Since that day, Rangers went into liquidation and started life again in the then-Third Division. They have won back to back league titles, but in the cups they have struggled against both the minnows and also against top flight opposition. This season they are trailing behind league leaders Hearts and the likes of Hibernian and Queen of the South are
Ally McCoist, oversaw Rangers’ final defeat against Celtic, life in the Third Division and the club’s march through the leagues. With McCoist out to pastures new tending his weeds it is left to Kenny McDowall, Gordon Durie and Lee McCulloch – as the management team that will be tasked with trying to overcome the odds.
Now don’t get me wrong the Celtic team of today, in my opinion, is weaker than the Celtic team of 2012 – especially up front. There is no Forster, Wanyama, Ledley, Hooper and Samaras. Five important players that season.
However, Celtic have six survivors from that game – Izaguirre, Brown, Matthews, Brown, Commons and Stokes – while only two survive from the Rangers team that was humiliated that day – Lee Wallace and Lee McCulloch.
With those surviving Celtic players, Ronny Deila also has at his disposal the likes of Craig Gordon, Virgil van Dijk, Nir Biton, Stefan Johansen, John Guidetti, James Forrest, Leigh Griffiths and talented youngsters Callum McGregor & Liam Henderson.
Can you say the Rangers players at the disposal of McDowall are capable enough to deal with the players above? They have even sold their best player this season in the guise of Lewis MacLeod and may lose one or two more players before the transfer window closes in a bid to alleviate the financial mess the club is still in – for a short time.
The Celtic team may be inconsistent in the league this season, but they have qualified for the knock out rounds of the Europa League and are still fighting on all three fronts domestically. They have also defeated Hearts twice with seven goals in favour to no goals conceded – the same Hearts side that has beaten Rangers twice this season 2-0 and 2-1.
It doesn’t bode well for Rangers and their fans.
In previous years, Glasgow derby games could never be predicted but while this game may be an unknown quantity – Celtic will be overwhelming favourites given the players at their disposal, the experience they have and the level of football they play at week in week out. Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t have a clue about the Scottish game or has a soft spot for Rangers and needs to see a shrink.
So while all eyes will be on the games between now and then, subconsciously fans and players alike will be counting the days until the League Cup semi final and the build-up to the game that week will be ridiculous.
At the final whistle one club will be celebrating and I cannot see anything other than a Celtic victory. With ‘Just can’t get enough’ blaring out among the thousands of Celtic fans in attendance.
Rangers fans should be dreading this game – it could be embarrassing. If Celtic find their stride it could end up like the Dundee United in August 6-1.
What do you make of Smith’s comments? What do you think of the game? Which way will it swing? Is the result a dead cert or will it be as predictable as past games? We want to hear your views.