Rivals will take 5,000 mile round trip in days before Celtic clash

By John McGinley

August 13, 2021

Rangers will take a 5,000 mile round trip in the days leading up to the first derby of the season against Celtic later this month.

The Ibrox side going out of the Champions League has obvious positives in cash terms for Celtic. It would not have been helpful to the Bhoys’ trophy hunt this season if they had an extra £30m or so to play with as a result of reaching the group stages of the competition.

However, one of the other consequences of their defeat to Malmo on Tuesday night relates to the Europa League play-off round, where Rangers are now confirmed to be playing Alashkert of Armenia.

Photo by Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images

They’re based in the city of Yerevan, which is 2,445 miles away from Glasgow. It’s a five-hour flight. Rangers play them away from home in the second leg on August 26th. They will then have a late-night jaunt back to Scotland. The match against Celtic then takes place at Noon on August 29th.

It’s far from an ideal scenario for them. Celtic’s trip to AZ Alkmaar is short by comparison, though Rangers at least know we’re also on our travels that week.

Steven Gerrard may actually be breathing a sigh of relief. If Alashkert had gone out to Kairat Almaty, his side would have been facing an even longer trip east into Kazakhstan.

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Still, it’s an interesting subplot to the upcoming fixture. The Rangers boss ultimately won’t be happy that they have to play on a Thursday on the eastern edge of Europe, when they had a chance of a Tuesday or Wednesday fixture against Ludogorets.

Ange Postecoglou will be taking charge of a derby against them for the first time. It’s the first time the two teams will be able to measure themselves against each other ahead of multiple other derbies to come this season.

There are still a few matches to go until then, and potentially lots of transfer work in and out of both clubs, so we don’t really know what shape either team will be in.

Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images

However, it’s fair to say I am a lot more optimistic about the encounter now compared to a fortnight ago. What will another two weeks bring?

In other news, the new Celtic fan song paying tribute to Ange, Abada and Kyogo that got an airing last night.