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1/1 and 1/1
1/1 and 1/1
The fact that Callum McGregor had never played in an Old Firm game did not stop him from helping Celtic on his debut in 2016 to an emphatic 5-1 victory over Rangers at Parkhead.
McGregor has no doubt that fellow midfielders Ismaila Soro and David Turnbull will also shine in the derby considering their lack of experience when they make their debuts at Ibrox this afternoon, as seems highly probable.
Indeed, he believes the passion, enthusiasm and skill of the young pair may be crucial to the search for a win by Neil Lennon’s side that will rekindle hopes of a tenth consecutive victory.
“I think they were great,” he said. “They’re not scared often when you bring players in, which is good. That can be an advantage.
We have plenty squad experience and can cope with a lot of guys playing for the first time in a derby. It will be up to us, us who are seasoned, to make sure they’re all right.
In recent weeks, Soro and Turnbull helped Celtic resolve a dip in shape that led to protests outside Parkhead and demands for the sacking of Lennon, and put together a six-game winning streak. McGregor claims that the four-time triple winners are in a strong position going into the critical game.
It was about getting back to our identity and I think we did that,” he said, “We got some momentum going and that was the target. We scored a few goals and have now kept a few clean sheets. So, we’re pleased with where we are now before the game against Rangers.
“We’re scoring goals and the top two guys (Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffiths) are in good shape. Behind them, we still seem to have a good balance, which is good. We need to go into the game positively. It’s an important game and we’re going to try and win it.
Winning games like this always gives you a lift, I believe. You get a big boost of confidence when you win them, and the momentum keeps building. We’ve won six in a row and we’ve got to try to keep it going and we’ve got to make it seven at Ibrox.
In October, McGregor was unable to keep Celtic from enduring a 2-0 loss at Parkhead to their city rivals. He is confident that this time around, he and his teammates will do better.
“There are no excuses when you lose a game like that, of course,” he said. But I think when you think about the missing players, you know the effect it had. When you lose a game like that, it also affects the hysteria surrounding it.
But if you look back from a distance, it was another Celtic band. For us now, the challenge is to do better on Saturday. Now we’ve found a better balance. We have a positive side to try to display against Celtic.
“Losing the last two games against Rangers is completely hurting. It can be devastating if you experience a loss in those games. Before the next time you face them, you take it with you. So that’s certainly something we’re going to try to make up for.
“We need a positive result from this game and we’re in good form, so we need to go there with confidence and try to cause them problems.”
However, McGregor does not believe that Celtic, currently 16 points off the top of the table with three games left, needs a victory to keep their hopes of a tenth consecutive Scottish title alive in May.
I think it’s certainly an important game,” he said. “But Wednesday’s game at Dundee United was the most important and we had to win it. And we did. It’s a Rangers game now and we’ve got to try and win it. The next one, then, and so on.
“There are 38 games and usually the best team wins the league. That’s what we have to be at the end of the season.
“You can have ups and downs, it’s how you deal with those results that ultimately determines where you end up in the league. We have a lot of ground to make up and we have to try to do that as quickly as possible.”
Asked if he thought it was a must-win game, McGregor replied, “I don’t think so. I assume maybe everyone out there thinks that. But, like I said, it’s about how you handle the setbacks during the season.
“It’s about where you are at the end of May. We have to take the long-term