|Venue: Celtic Park, Glasgow Date: Sat, 17 Oct Kick-off: 12:30 BST|
|Protection: Pay attention dwell on Radio Scotland & on-line; textual content commentary on BBC Sport web site & app; watch highlights on Sportscene|
It could be a recreation with out followers and soul, however Celtic Park on Saturday shall be remembered far longer than many different Previous Agency contests, whatever the hush or the result.
A barn-busting basic or a dreary stalemate – no matter occurs it’ll go down in historical past as the primary, and please God the final, coronavirus derby between the 2 Glasgow behemoths.
We’re now in an age the place we’re not simply ready on harm experiences, we’re additionally ready on Covid updates. Celtic have been hit onerous and shall be lacking as much as 4 gamers due to the virus. Ryan Christie can be a substantial inventive loss, but when Odsonne Edouard is nowhere to be seen on Saturday then it will likely be a blow of a unique magnitude for Neil Lennon and his crew.
Albian Ajeti has scored 4 targets in eight video games and can be the pure substitute, however these are sizeable boots to fill. Edouard at his finest has lit up this fixture. 9 video games and 6 targets are simply the naked bones statistics. His affect has been vital.
There’s no person that Rangers would worry greater than a match and firing Edouard. He is not been himself for a short while now, however good gamers can rise to massive events and the Frenchman has achieved it routinely in opposition to Celtic’s best rivals.
So, as Celtic followers await the most recent on their striker, you will be sure that Rangers followers are ready too. The place is he? How is he?
Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos has in all probability been essentially the most talked-about man on this fixture over the previous two seasons, however solely due to the controversy surrounding him and his forlorn seek for a aim. In tight video games, Morelos has tried to do it, however Edouard has achieved it.
Entrance-runners v long-distance kings
Of their seven head-to-heads since Steven Gerrard took over at Rangers, there’s been so little between these groups. Celtic have received 4, Rangers three. Celtic have scored seven, Rangers six.
On the prime of the desk, Rangers have performed 10 to Celtic’s 9. They’re one level and one aim higher off. The margins are effective, however after all it is early too.
Rangers have confirmed themselves to be sprinters who run out of puff, front-runners who cannot see it by way of. Celtic are the long-distance kings. They keep the course – or have achieved each season for the previous 9.
Edouard or no Edouard, the long-awaited Morelos aim or no Morelos aim, Scott Brown and Callum McGregor bossing the sport or Ryan Kent and Scott Arfield lording it over them – nothing shall be determined a method or one other on Saturday. However it’ll be enjoyable nonetheless.
The seven video games of Celtic versus Gerrard have all had drama hooked up. Penalties have been missed previously two. There have been 5 pink playing cards – Morelos, Andy Halliday, Jordan Jones, Jeremie Frimpong and Morelos once more. Six when you depend Michael Beale, the Rangers coach.
There may have been extra. Celtic followers will go to the grave believing that Allan McGregor and Jon Flanagan also needs to have walked. They’re going to additionally let you know that Morelos ought to have had a pink after three contentious incidents with Brown, Christie and Anthony Ralston in December 2018.
Rangers people would, little question, cite incidents of their very own. That to-and-fro can be the verbal equal of Nadal versus Djokovic.
Are Rangers real title contenders?
Gerrard’s crew have been the higher aspect in three of the previous 4 derbies. Gone, it might appear, are the times when Celtic took Rangers aside at will, humiliating them with their invention, their tempo and their ruthlessness. The fours and fives look as a lot a factor of the previous as Clint Hill and Rob Kiernan.
Earlier than the newest assembly, at Celtic Park final December, Neil Lennon’s aspect had received 15 in a row in all competitions at their very own place. They hadn’t misplaced at dwelling to a home rival in additional than a 12 months, however Rangers beat them 2-1 – and completely deserved to. Kent and Nikola Katic scored. Borna Barisic assisted on each.
There was an influence about Rangers that day that was wholly convincing. Extra not too long ago, there’s been an authority in a few of their play that is additionally convincing.
Kent has emerged as a playmaker and a frontrunner. Arfield has been intelligent and influential. Steven Davis and Ryan Jack have been essential within the coronary heart of the midfield. The defence has regarded sturdy. James Tavernier cannot cease scoring.
Rangers have not misplaced in 13 this season, wining 11, drawing two and retaining 10 clear sheets. We have seen a model of this earlier than – a crew flattering to deceive.
Are they real title contenders? It is too early to say. In the event that they win on Saturday are they real title contenders? The temptation can be to declare them a mortal hazard to Celtic’s bid for the ten, however the actuality is that even in victory it might nonetheless be too early to say whether or not they have it in them or not.
They’ll dash, however can they keep? A Derby horse is rarely going to win the Grand Nationwide – and a league season is run over a Grand Nationwide distance.
It is intriguing. For all of the speak about Celtic not fairly having hit their straps this season they’ve misplaced one recreation in 13 – in opposition to Ferencvaros – and have received eight in a row since that Champions League defeat.
Edouard has been inflicting Lennon some points along with his performances, however Celtic have nonetheless managed to attain 20 targets by way of 11 scorers within the eight video games for the reason that defeat by the Hungarians. And for all of the chat concerning the occasional, however undoubted, wobbles on the again they’ve solely conceded 3 times in these eight video games.
The final time these sides met there was a penalty save, a pink card on 90 minutes, one other pink card simply after and an upset when Rangers received at Celtic Park. The absence of followers would possibly flip the standard maelstrom vibe into one thing calmer, but when latest historical past is a information this recreation will produce its personal thrills. The Previous Agency, with a twist.