IT may not be as attractive a fixture as it once was but the Old Firm derby still remains a global fixture.
Saturday's game between Celtic and Rangers at Celtic Park is still the standout fixture in the Scottish league. The gulf in class between the two sides has demeaned the fixture in recent years – Celtic are expected to cruise to victory. When I was younger, it was difficult to predict this fixture but I can’t see anything other than a Celtic win.
The Hoops have not hit the same heights of last season but it was always unlikely the Champions would be able to replicate what they did during Brendan Rodgers’ first season in charge. I expected much more from Rangers this season but they struggle to get any consistency with their results.
They have already dismissed a manager this season when they fired Pedro Caixinha after just seven months in charge. At the time, I thought they made the right decision but considering they were unable to secure Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes as his replacement – I’m not so sure were the Rangers board too quick to pull the trigger with Caixinha. Rangers were certainly a better team under Caixinha’s management than the team we faced two weeks again at Ibrox.
Rangers have appointed Graeme Murty as manager until the end of the season and the Englishman knows what it takes to bring a Rangers side to Celtic Park and get a positive result. Although many will see the game as a foregone conclusion, including myself, few gave Rangers hope of getting anything from the game when the Gers last visited Celtic Park, last March. Murty took charge of Rangers that day, with the game ending in a 1-1 draw. T
he Teddy Bears were the better side that day and Murty will take solace knowing that Rangers can defy the odds.
The Christmas period is a busy schedule for clubs and because Celtic played on the 26th and Rangers played on the 27th of December – the Hoops will be fresher for the contest. Rangers need all the help they can get if they are going to cause an upset. The extra rest and recover time the Celtic players will have had – will give them a big advantage.
Although Celtic have recovered well from their first domestic defeat under Rodgers, their 4-0 defeat away to Hearts shows that the champions are vulnerable. Hearts played with so much energy that day and Celtic weren’t able to cope with it.
I’m sure Murty will be reminding his players about that Hearts game and that there are flaws in this Celtic side. Rangers’ only hope is that Celtic do have another off day.