When they make the trip to Govan this weekend, Celtic should have absolutely no doubt in their minds as to where Rangers’ main weakness lies.
Hibernian proved it yesterday at Ibrox. In order to seriously get at this Rangers side, you need to exploit their defensively poor full-backs.
Borna Barisic was absolutely rinsed by Martin Boyle on more than one occasion yesterday. Of course, the problem with that is that it was Martin Boyle. The final ball just wasn’t there. But with James Forrest up against him in our Scottish Cup fourth-round clash, the story will likely be different.
And it’s the same down the opposite flank too. Who cares whether Steven Gerrard thinks Nathan Patterson is the next Cafu? He’s a rookie and should be targeted by the formidable pairing of Diego Laxalt and the in-form Mohamed Elyounoussi.
Celtic got all of their joy against Rangers last time out by exploiting that left flank. Granted, we played with a diamond against Rangers at Parkhead, meaning Elyounoussi was more central whilst it was Callum McGregor teaming up with Diego. It was Leon Balogun who Gerrard stuck out on the right, and he was totally bombarded and overwhelmed by Celtic’s left-side quality.
Patterson looks likely to start for our rivals this time around, but the situation is the same. Get at Rangers down the flanks and open their defence up. If we get in behind, we’ll create a truck load of chances like we did at Parkhead. Like Hibs did at Ibrox.
Kennedy should know how to exit Govan with priceless Celtic win
But the personnel has to be correct. Celtic simply must be aggressive if they’re going to take on that tactic. The best way of doing that is by going with the 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 and playing Laxalt up with Moi on the left side.
Laxalt’s direct running will be a monumental problem for the Rangers right-back. Having Elyounoussi up along with him will add an extra dimension, and gives Rangers’ right-side more problems than they would like.
This would also likely lead to Connor Goldson or Filip Helander having to come out and help if we can get ourselves into some 2-v-1 positions on the left. We have a great chance to outnumber Rangers on that side and force their defence to be stretched.
That’s a touch different to the right. Jonjoe Kenny, who’s also likely to start, has proven himself to be a more pragmatic full-back. Whilst he does go on the overlap on occasion, it’s not his main role. He’ll sit back and offer Forrest an option to play back to if necessary.
It’s different down the left where the all-action Laxalt will run at Rangers and leave space for Moi. Yes, there will be some who state that this opens ourselves up down the right side for a counter.
That’s true to an extent, but Celtic should still have plenty of protection for the rest of the backline with Scott Brown and Callum McGregor able to cover. The truth is we have to be aggressive as Hibs were yesterday.
This game suits itself perfectly for a Laxalt/Elyounoussi combination. Hopefully, that’s the route Kennedy goes down.