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Rangers v Celtic: Match Prediction

Rangers v Celtic

Ever since Rangers came back as a new team in 2012, each return of the ‘Old Firm’ has invariably been touted as the biggest yet; apart from their triumph in the 2016 Scottish Cup semi-final on penalties, Celtic has held the upper hand. In his time in charge so far, Brendan Rodgers remains unbeaten, having won 6 and only drawn 2 in 8 games against Rangers.

The first meeting of the season ended in a relatively comfortable 2-0 away win for Celtic, but the most recent encounter was far tighter, ending scoreless at Celtic Park. In truth, while Celtic were remarkably sluggish and off the pace, Rangers deservedly edged it: James Tavernier was a rampaging presence from right-back, creating several excellent chances for his teammates, of which Alfredo Morelos should certainly have scored from at least one. That was Graeme Murty’s first game in charge against Celtic, and since then he has to be commended for the recovery job he’s provided after the awful Pedro Caixinha era.

Since the beginning of this year, the club have won 6 of their 7 league games, a 2-1 loss at home to Hibs the only result to break their unbeaten record. Great wins over Hearts (2-0) and St Johnstone (4-1) closed out February. They’re a team full of confidence, and the Rangers fans have responded with renewed expectancy; one only needs to consider the footage of their reactions to drawing Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-finals last week to realise this.

The cries of Celtic’s demise, however, seem quite hasty, for they’re still 6 points ahead in the league – with 1 game in hand – and have already claimed the Scottish League Cup trophy. It’s also true that their form since January, and this season at large, has been a downgrade on last season, but 2016/2017 was simply an extraordinary campaign; many Celtic fans would do well to recall the tumultuous 1990’s period when they bemoan another sloppy team performance this season as if it’s the worst football they’ve ever had to endure. Kilmarnock beat them 1-0 in February on a torrid Rugby Park pitch, and St Johnstone held them 0-0 at Celtic Park afterwards, with Celtic looking short on creativity and ideas going forward.

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Much has been said about the shakiness of their defence, but Celtic’s attackers have been equally as out of sorts recently. Scott Sinclair may have a great goals and assists return, but his overall play has been well short of what is required. Tom Rogic is just returning to full fitness after a lengthy spell out. New loan arrival Charly Musonda has looked slight amidst the brute physicality of Scottish football. Only James Forrest has done himself proud, but there just hasn’t been enough quality link-up play in the attacking third. Moussa Dembele’s 2 goals in their last outing in the Scottish Cup against Morton will have improved his confidence markedly, and Rodgers would do well to consider playing the Frenchman alongside his compatriot Odsonne Edouard on Sunday: when the youngster came on to partner Dembele up front, he changed the game, making good runs that the Morton defence couldn’t deal with.

Prediction: 

A hard fought 1-2 win for Celtic.

Freelance writer currently based in New Zealand.