Scottish Premiership – Pride at stake
Rangers have nothing left to play for in the Scottish Premiership but thankfully the penultimate game of the season is against Celtic. This match preview will look over the key points of both Rangers and Celtic in the Old Firm derby. The players have been kept on their toes. The carrot of a place in next season’s team dangled in front of them. Tragically it has been too little too late with the resurgent upturn in form. A new shape and a return to the first team for some that many thought were deemed surplus to requirements. A mass overhaul will not be required this summer, a refreshing change to previous seasons.
The previous Old Firm game, despite being down to ten men, Rangers could have had three points. They should’ve, at worst, drawn but gifted Celtic a second goal. Over the three games Celtic have an aggregate lead of 3-2. Over these games, it’s fair to say that Celtic dominated the first, Rangers the second and honours even in the third. For anyone to say Rangers haven’t shown progress need to watch the previous two Old Firm encounters.
Consistency the key
The only difference between the two sides at the moment is consistency, not quality. Team selection gives you this, not the quality of players. Celtic have been able to call upon 7-8 of their starting eleven over the last five years. Going into next season, Rangers will be able to build their team around a solid spine for the first time in eight years. Last season there wouldn’t be too many Rangers players getting into the Celtic team. This year, how many Celtic players would get into the Rangers one?
Rangers have an almost fully fit squad – Eros Grezda and Kyle Lafferty have minor injuries. Top scorer, Alfredo Morelos has minutes under his belt after his four-game suspension. Steven Gerrard has some tough decisions to make. The only real problem is Allan McGregor’s suspension, answers on a postcard as to what went through his head against Hibernian. Wes Foderingham aside, expect an unchanged line-up with Morelos to come off the bench, if Jermain Defoe didn’t score last week things could’ve been different.
Looking at Rangers’ new shape, Celtic‘s formation is still up in the air. Scott Brown isn’t mobile enough to cope with both Scott Arfield and Ryan Kent. Kent has tormented Brown all season. Rangers have extra numbers to cope with Callum McGregor and Tom Rogic in the forward areas with both Glenn Kamara and Ryan Jack providing cover.
Celtic’s change in play
Statistically, Celtic have totally changed how they are playing under Neil Lennon in the Scottish Premiership. More crosses into the box and more long-range shooting is a result. They have been on a good run of form and not conceding too many goals. However, this remains a byproduct of having better players rather than dominating games.
Winning two Old Firm games would soften the blow of not winning any trophies. The league has gone but we all want to see as close a gap as possible at the season’s end. If Rangers play with the intensity that they are capable of Celtic will struggle to cope. If Rangers sit back and allow Celtic to play, they have the players that will create and finish chances.
Morelos the main man
Rangers need to win the last two games to carry positivity and belief forward into next season. This brings its own pressure, but one the players should thrive on. Too many times in recent years has the notion of the shirt being “too heavy for too many”. This time it’s different. These are the games in the Scottish Premiership that matter, to settle old scores, Morelos to score the winner and leave a hero with “Alfredo, Alfredo” ringing in his ears as he goes.