Rangers v Celtic
Celtic will still be smarting from losing the League Cup final last weekend but Sunday’s match at Ibrox could be the Championship winning game.
Rangers’ problems have been there for all to see the last six weeks, both on and off the park. Administration saw them deducted 10 points and any small, lingering hopes they had of retaining the SPL went with it. Their future still remains unclear but there is interest from several parties to buy the club and as long as there is, the fans will remain hopeful that an adequate and positive outcome can be achieved. On the park they have struggled to get any sort of momentum going with so many changes being made to the starting line-up every week. Last weekend’s loss at Dundee United was their fourth in six matches and it has resulted them in being joined in second place by Motherwell. In the grand scheme of things their on-field performance are irrelevant as they have already been eliminated from European competition for next season due to their financial problems. They have plenty of pride to play for however – and if Motherwell fail to win on Saturday, they need to avoid defeat to prevent their arch rivals winning the league title in their own stadium.
Celtic were on course for a domestic treble last week but a surprise, yet deserved, Kilmarnock victory meant they fell at the first hurdle. It was the league leaders’ first defeat in 26 domestic games but it came at the worst possible time. Despite having numerous chances to take the lead they were unable to breach the inspired Kilmarnock goalkeeper before conceding a goal in the last five minutes. Neil Lennon will be upset at missing out on the treble but he will no doubt be stressing that there are still various opportunities available to his players which they need to grasp – not least a domestic double. As well as last weekends’ loss, he will also be hoping to avenge his side’s 4-2 defeat from earlier in the season when they collapsed in the second half the game at Ibrox. Despite the lead of 21points and the SPL title virtually assured, no match between Celtic and Rangers is anything other than important and crucial – this one is no different.
Ally McCoist doesn’t have anything like the squad available to him than his counterpart from across the city but he has played in enough of these derby games to be able to motivate whoever he fields on Sunday afternoon. He will want to include as many experienced players as he possibly can as the atmosphere has gotten the better of more than a few talented, but naïve, younger players.
Lennon is likely to include Giorgios Samaras from the start after the striker came off the bench late on last Sunday. So often the Greek Internationalist is selected for these games because of his power and strength which has been decisive in recent matches.
Anything can happen in these games but the one thing we can be sure off is drama. Should Motherwell fail to win on the Saturday the tension will be even greater as both sides will be going out for that win which would bring with it so many bragging rights for the away supporters but also, restore some much needed pride for the home fans.
I rarely predict the outcome of such encounters and Sunday’s match is no different. Instead, there is good reason to believe that there will be a few goals scored so go with more than two.
My Selections: Over 2.5 goals
Best odds available: EVENS available with PaddyPower