In the second Old Firm derby of the season this afternoon, RANGERS host Celtic with Steven Gerrard’s men 19 points ahead of their rivals – despite having played three more games – if they can take all three points at Ibrox.
A Celtic win will provide a crucial move for Neil Lennon and his players towards a historic tenth consecutive Premiership title.
Here is the take on how the game will go from our authors.
MATTHEW LINDSAY – Celtic 2-2 Rangers
The portrayal of the second Old Firm game of the 2020/21 season as an immovable object facing an irresistible force would be a bit of an exaggeration.
But both Rangers, who have won 13 Premier League matches, and Celtic, who have won their last six, are in excellent shape for the Ibrox match. Choosing a winner is hard.
The side of Steven Gerrard, who won a comfortable 2-0 victory at October’s Parkhead, are rightly favourites. Scott Arfield, who has been one of their best players this season, and Ryan Jack in midfield, will be absent, however.
A lot depends on how the replacements will do.
The squad of Neil Lennon is very capable of scoring objectives. I fully expect them to crack the hosts’ defense with Leigh Griffiths and Odsonne Edouard up top and Ryan Christie and David Turnbull in midfield. They’re going to introduce themselves better than in the last game.
But the back line of Parkhead Eleven is something to think about. Vasilis Barkas, who hasn’t been able to justify his transfer fee of £ 5 million and has only played once in the last three weeks, will start his target. In central midfield, Nir Bitton, who is actually a midfielder, could play. I can’t believe they will keep the slate clean.
At the end of 90 exciting minutes, I think there will be a reasonable division of points.
GRAEME McGARRY – Celtic 1-1 Rangers
Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager, admits his side can’t afford to lose this game and it looks like at the right moment they’ve hit form.
If you had asked me a few weeks ago what I thought of this game, I would have said that by a long shot the Rangers were favorites, but the inclusion of Ismaila Soro and David Turnbull brought a new lease of life to Celtic.
If that is enough to conquer a solid Rangers side, it remains to be seen, and it will be interesting to see how Lennon’s latest 4-4-2 diamond will blend with the 4-3-3 of Steven Gerrard that has performed so well in recent Old Firm games.
At the end of the day, I expect a draw that will please Rangers more than Celtic, but will only keep the visitors in the title race.
CHRIS JACK – Celtic 2-0 Rangers.
The old cliché about the Old Firm is that on days like this, and to some degree that may be accurate, shape flies out the window. Neil Lennon would have to hope that the famous phrase holds true at Ibrox if Celtic are to win the game.
In recent weeks, his side might have changed, but Rangers are heading into this game with plenty of momentum. Trust exists in the ranks of the Light Blues, and rightly so, but coach Steven Gerrard will not allow that to turn into complacency.
Gerrard has potential match-winners in attack in Joe Aribo, Ryan Kent and Kemar Roofe, not to mention Alfredo Morelos, who was again in a goal-scoring mood in the win over St Mirren.
However, they have scoring choices from all parts of the squad, as Rangers illustrated at Parkhead, and they are too goal-threatening for Celtic to manage this afternoon.
Lennon definitely has quality in attack, but this season’s defensive record of the Gers speaks for itself and Celtic will need to boost their poor performance at Parkhead substantially.
Even if they do, as they look to increase their lead in the title race to 19 points, Rangers are still out of their league.
AIDAN SMITH – Celtic 1-1 Rangers
I can’t see these two teams divided for a span of 90 minutes. Although this game is more meaningful for Celtic than for Rangers, the team of Neil Lennon must concentrate primarily on defense.
The backline has not been up to scratch in recent weeks and I can’t imagine they will keep a clean sheet against Steven Gerrard’s side? Oh, no.
Despite Celtic’s lackluster defensive performance, the attacking pair of Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffiths have been impressive of late. I trust those two to cause Rangers problems in the final third. Let’s hope for an exciting game.
JOSHUA BARRIE – Rangers