Sunday will see both Celtic and Rangers collide once again in an Old Firm derby that has the potential to either make or break Steven Gerrard’s first season in charge of the Ibrox club. The Gers currently lack behind the reigning champions by a massive 10-point gap, but can they still pull off a first league title win in over 8 years?
In order for Rangers to get the title race back on track- after their draw in their most recent outing enabled Celtic to extend the gap even further and seemingly seal the league- they will first need to beat their bitter city rivals this weekend. It’s vital that Gerrard’s side close the gap before the final couple of games prior to the SPFL fixture split- as from that moment onward the games will be much harder.
As things stand, Rangers will have to face Celtic, host Hearts at Ibrox and then travel to North Lanarkshire to play Motherwell, whilst Celtic have a slightly easier run of games in which they will face St Mirren away from home and Livingston in Glasgow. This means that Rangers’ fixtures are must-win games, as the Hoops will more than likely pick up all 3 points on both occasions.
Following these last two games, the post-split fixtures would begin, and Rangers could get lucky and have more home games than away games- depending on how the draw turns out. This means that, in principal, the Gers would have to face Celtic, Aberdeen, Kilmarnock, Hearts and Hibs before the season ends. It might seem like a tough task for Steven Gerrard- but the rest of the clubs, including Celtic, will be in the same situation.
A crucial key for their Old Firm clash will be, as ever, their start striker Alfredo Morelos. The Columbian has failed to register a single goal against Celtic in the 2 seasons since he arrived, so he’ll be desperate to finally get the pressure and weight of expectation off his back. He will be facing a near-impeccable Celtic defense that has conceded a mere 2 goals so far this year in domestic competitions- aided as well by goalkeeper Scott Bain, who has been superb for his side.
Furthermore, Ross McCrorie, Ryan Kent and Scott Arfield, the architects of Rangers’ win over Celtic back in December, will need to ensure that they put in a repeat performance similar to the aforementioned game, if indeed they are chosen to play. In recent weeks, Rangers have been using the physical presence of January signing Glen Kamara, alongside Ryan Jack and any other partner Gerrard chose to accompany them, to try and boss the midfield, so the ex-Liverpool legend could use the Finnish midfielder to counter the brilliance of Callum McGregor and the leadership of Scott Brown.
Rangers will need to be on the lookout when defending, as the Gers have looked shaky at times during bigger games throughout the season, and Celtic tend to excel in attack thanks to the prowess of Oliver Burke, Scott Sinclair, impact substitute Timothy Weah and Odsonne Édouard- whom we believe has a chance of finishing as the Scottish Premiership top goalscorer.
It’s going to be an extremely tough game for Rangers, as a lot rides on the result they get after the 90 minutes are up and the atmosphere that Celtic Park will generate will play a major role. Failure to win would definitively bring an end to their title hopes but taking all 3 points would certainly kick-start their quest of winning their first major title since their demotion back in 2012, and with Rangers currently priced a 25/1 to win the Scottish Premiership, it could be worth backing.