Celtic must take confidence from Ibrox win ahead of Sunday

By David Walton

December 24, 2019

You could be forgiven for thinking that the Hampden clash between Celtic and Rangers was the only derby match played this season.

Celtic, and we don’t mind admitting it, were fortunate to get out of Hampden with the Betfred Cup. But let’s be honest, you’re hardly being allowed to forget about that aspect of the game. It feels like it’s been shoved down your throat since we lifted the cup.

Indeed, the BBC’s report on the game immediately after felt like a shower of praise on Rangers. You would’ve thought it was them who had won the cup. We get we didn’t play well, but did we not win the game? You don’t win football matches by sheer luck alone.

Celtic got the job done at Ibrox back in September (Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Ahead of Sunday’s visit to Parkhead for Steven Gerrard’s Rangers, there hasn’t been much of a mention of the September meeting between the sides. Most of the analysis will be on what happened at Hampden. After all, that’ll be more convenient.

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For the fact is that Neil Lennon’s Celtic got one over on Gerrard with a convincing Ibrox win. A solid defensive performance, in which Christopher Jullien, Boli Bolingoli, and Hatem Abd Elhamed all came into their own, ensured we stole a march in the title-race.

Parkhead will be a totally different game to Hampden

Interestingly, of that starting XI at Ibrox, only Elhamed looks like being out. Even then you could argue that we have an upgrade in Jeremie Frimpong. The rest of the starting XI are all available to feature.

We have nothing to fear on Sunday (Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

That’s a far cry from the Hampden win over Rangers when we had Odsonne Edouard, Boli, Elhamed, and Johnston either not available or not ready to start.

That makes the win at Ibrox more pertinent when it comes to analysing both team’s chances at Parkhead on Sunday. You can’t desperately clutch at Hampden and act as though Celtic have any chance of playing that poorly again. We aren’t lacking enough in personnel.

September’s win just feels like it’s been swept under the carpet and forgotten about.

Celtic struggled at Hampden but still won the Betfred Cup (Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Sure, Rangers can say that the addition of Ryan Kent shows that they don’t need to worry about a similar showing to September. But Kent was poor at Hampden, and really struggled to take on the responsibility. There’s no guarantee he’s going to turn up and put in a top performance.

When it comes to team selection, September is a lot more relevant than what we saw at Hampden. Although I suppose in a way it works better for us if Rangers believe we’re going to be as poor as we were at the start of the month.

If they do, they’ll be in for a massive shock. We have the number of this Rangers team, and we always have.