5 talking points ahead of Rangers v Celtic

Rangers welcome Celtic to Ibrox for the second Old Firm clash of the season.

Steven Gerrard’s team can go level on points with the Hoops with a victory, but Gers have not beaten their bitter rivals at home since 2012.

Here, Football Paradise’s Andy Newport looks at five talking points ahead of the game:

Alfredo Morelos v Odsonne Eduoard

Celtic’s Odsonne Edouard netted twice as the Hoops wrapped up last season's league title with a 5-0 thumping of Gers
Celtic’s Odsonne Edouard netted twice as the Hoops wrapped up last season’s league title with a 5-0 thumping of Gers (Jane Barlow/PA)

The value of both strikers to their respective clubs can be tallied in sums approaching eight figures. Rangers knocked back an £8million bid for Morelos last January and will be holding out for much more after watching him blast 20 goals in the first half of the campaign, while the £9million Celtic splashed out to sign their French ace permanently from Paris St Germain has so far been repaid with 14 strikes from Edouard. But despite those sums, neither is the finished article. Morelos’ record against the Hoops is woeful after passing up a catalogue of chances last term. Edouard struck three times against Gers last season but has struggled to match the consistency levels of departed compatriot Moussa Demebele this campaign. A winner on Saturday, though, would be worth its weight in gold.

Injury woes and problems Down Under

Neither side are likely to be at full strength as they line up alongside each other in the Ibrox tunnel. Steven Gerrard will be without Borna Barisic, Graham Dorrans and Jamie Murphy, while the Rangers boss is also sweating on the availability of Connor Goldson, Ryan Kent, Scott Arfield and Gareth McAuley. Brendan Rodgers is also unsure on whether Kieran Tierney will make the trip to Govan and he is definitely missing Leigh Griffiths due to personal issues and Tom Rogic after he was denied permission to delay joining up with Australia’s Asian Cup squad. Celtic have proved in the past they have the squad to cope with absentees but Gerrard will worry Rangers are down to the bare bones.

Rangers need a title booster shot

Victory for Rangers on Saturday will propel Steven Gerrard's side firmly into the title race
Victory for Rangers on Saturday will propel Steven Gerrard’s side firmly into the title race (Jeff Holmes/PA)

Gerrard believes Rangers were only a “couple of results away from having the perfect six months” under his new reign but some supporters will feel their team should have more than 11 wins from 20 league games so far. Celtic’s form has also stuttered but victory on Saturday will see the champions open up a six-point gap with both a superior goal difference and a game in hand to also fall back on. The Light Blues must put down a marker if they want to maintain the title race as a two-horse affair.

Rodgers looking to make more history

The former Liverpool boss has dominated the derby scene since moving north two-and-a-half years ago. Celtic have picked up 10 wins and two draws from the 12 Old Firm battles they have contested under Rodgers, with the aggregate scoreline of 31-6 underlining the size of the gulf that has opened up between Glasgow’s big two. Now the Celtic manager can write another chapter into his club’s history books this weekend as he looks to become the first Hoops boss since 1909 to guide his side to five straight victories at Ibrox.

Ticket traumas

Celtic have been given just 800 tickets for the Ibrox clash (Ian Rutherford/PA)
Celtic have been given just 800 tickets for the Ibrox clash (Ian Rutherford/PA)

Rangers’ announcement at the start of the season that they would be slashing Celtic’s ticket allocation for the New Year showdown from 7,500 tickets to 800 was met with a tit-for-tat reply from Parkhead chiefs. Gers were given a mere 700 seats for the first derby meeting of the season in September and the visitors to Celtic Park found themselves drowned out both on the pitch and in the stands as Rodgers’ team bossed a 1-0 win. The Light Blues will need to give their fans something to shout about if they do not want to see their noisy neighbours celebrating on their home patch once again.

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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