Rangers face Celtic in the last derby match of the season, hoping to spoil any potential title party. After 10 games without a win against Celtic, and an abject performance in the cup semi-final, there’s plenty to motivate the team. In a week where the focus has been on the next potential manager, the build up to this one has seemed muted. That was the same going into the semi-final, and Rangers certainly reflected that on the day. This time around, they can’t afford to be as passive.
CELTIC LEAGUE FORM
Celtic are top on 75 points, with 36 of those picked up at home. They’ve won 10 and drawn 6 at their own ground, with no defeats as yet in the league. They’ve also only conceded 8 goals in those 16 matches.
In the five matches they’ve played since the meeting at Ibrox, Celtic have picked up 8 points. They’ve scored 6 goals, and conceded 3.
LAST 5 LEAGUE RESULTS
Motherwell (away), 0-0 draw
Ross County (home), 3-0 win
Dundee (home), 0-0 draw
Hamilton (away), 2-1 win
Hibernian (away), 2-1 defeat
At the time of writing, the press conferences haven’t been held. As such, the only confirmed injury Celtic have is Johnny Hayes. Lustig and Dembele missed the match against Hibs, and Ntcham seemed to pick up a knock in that game. However, I can see no reports suggesting they’ll miss the match. Assuming they make it, Celtic are likely to shape up as they did in the semi-final. McGregor seems to be playing on the left for them against Rangers now, allowing Rogic to be the attacking midfielder. Lustig, if fit, will come back in at right back. Dembele will also start if available. In central defence, Ajer and Boyata seem to be the preferred partnership at the moment.
Celtic have the most shots per match in the league, an average of 18 per match. They have scored 65 league goals, second only to Rangers. Their top goalscorers are Sinclair and Griffiths, both on 9 goals, with Dembele on 8. Sinclair and Dembele both have 5 assists on top of that. Whilst they don’t cross the ball often relative to other sides in the league, Tierney has played more crosses from the left than any other player in the league. With an average of almost 67% possession over the season, it’s clear that they look to dominate the ball.
With over 594 passes per game, at 88% accuracy, Celtic are far and away leaders in the league in this regard. They only play 31 long passes on average, which is lowest in the league. They may be somewhat predictable in style, but Scottish teams aren’t finding a consistent way to handle that.
A statistic which highlights this is known as PPDA, or Passes against Per Defensive Action. This measures how many passes an opposing team averages before the ball is won back or the move stopped. From a defensive sense, Celtic average 6.06, which is second best in the league. Rangers average 6.61, not a huge difference. Where the difference really lies is in how many passes the teams are able to have before being stopped, though. Here, Celtic average 16.63, and Rangers are second with 9.89. That can be expected as Celtic have better players so will be better able to keep possession. What it does suggest, though, is that teams aren’t as willing to press Celtic in matches as they could be.
ARE THERE ANY WEAKNESSES?
As highlighted in the past, given their attacking threat and defensive strength, it’s hard to pinpoint specific weaknesses in Celtic. In some games, when they’re pressed, they can struggle as they’re an attacking, open side. That’s not a guarantee, though. If we’re honest, any matches where the build up has suggested real pressure if they lose, they’ve found a way to win. They’ve had a number of draws, and now a few defeats, but not at the real crunch times. They’ll be highly motivated to win as they always are against Rangers.
What is apparent is that Rangers must have a go at them. There’s no point in trying to find a better way to play the approach from the semi-final. That was a mistake, and I’d imagine Murty knows that. Celtic can be exposed on their right-hand side, and Boyata is prone to taking touches when he should clear the ball. Brown will see a lot of the ball, but if he’s pressed when facing his own goal, he won’t be comfortable. There’s not an obvious weakness to target, but there are ways to cause them problems.
RANGERS TEAM NEWS
As stated earlier, the press conferences haven’t been held at the time of writing. However, it looks like Foderingham and Alves are likely to miss out. There are no suspensions aside from those the club have internally applied. Despite playing the 4-2-3-1 in the match against Hearts, I suspect Murty may make a change to the team.
PREDICTED LINE UP
Morelos would usually be the preferred option, given his all-round game, but with Cummings playing well last week I believe he’ll start. I also think Rangers will look to be a little more solid in midfield, and bring in Docherty for Windass.
Celtic are strong through the centre, and will hurt teams there. Rangers have tried to counter this with wide play, and it caused some issues in the match at Ibrox. If the midfield can keep the match tight in terms of possession, both Murphy and Candeias have a chance of making a real impact.
Not many Rangers fans will feel confident going into this game. There’s not much reason to. Despite that, I have a suspicion the match will end in a draw. If Aberdeen drop points against Hearts, that would be enough to win Celtic the league. I’m going for 1-1 in this match.
What’s your prediction for Sunday? Tweet us @abouttherangers with your thoughts!