Why Celtic fans should be very excited for Rangers match
Celtic boss Neil Lennon said it himself: “we are not even contemplating losing the game” (RTE).
Fine, we’re second in the table. Yes, Rangers are very, very good this season. So what? It’s a Derby, and when Celtic play Rangers, it’s a massive event.
Over the past 6 matches, Celtic have kept clean sheets and scored plenty of goals. Neil Lennon has something of a best XI and a preferred shape.
It was the match against Lille that turned around this portion of the season. Christophe Galtier’s team are worth close to £230m (Transfermarkt), and had everything to play for. Oh, and by the way – Lille are now a point ahead PSG in Ligue 1 (Sky Sports).
Rangers, on the other hand, are valued at about 1 and 1/2 Odsonne Edouards. We can do this.
Let’s look at the reasons Celtic fans have to be excited about our trip to Ibrox on Saturday.
No Celtic fans allowed, but no Rangers supporters either
Undoubtedly, Celtic suffered from the lack of atmosphere when the two teams last met (BBC). The Bhoys struggled to create much of anything, and conceded 2 very poor goals from a defensive perspective.
That feels like a lifetime ago, in truth. Regardless of who you support, so many games and so many events have taken place since October that it’s hard to recognise the Celtic side who played that day.
An empty Celtic Park might’ve unsettled the Bhoys but it’ll have galvanised Rangers. From a basic psychological level, would you rather go to work knowing thousands of people will either be supporting you, thousands will be screaming at you, or you could work in silence?
This time round, the eery quiet will be in Rangers’ back garden and that’ll have more effect on the Gers than it will us. Yes, it’s a sad situation and it’s now how football should be, but these are the times.
Without being hounded by 50,000 supporters with every touch of the ball, Celtic can play with less anxiety, and impose themselves on the league leaders.
Celtic’s new-look first-team
Ntcham, Klimala, Duffy and Welsh started the last Glasgow Derby. All 4 have had difficult spells since, barely featuring.
They’ve been largely M.I.A. since Celtic started their current winning run. Instead, the likes of Ismaila Soro and David Turnbull have revitalised the midfield. Edouard and Griffiths are fit and firing, while the defence looks settled (Hearts game aside).
Lennon looks to have finally settled on his best XI and formation, and it should cause problems against Gerrard’s Rangers. With a midfield diamond, there’s vast creativity and depth, especially with Ryan Jack and Scott Arfield missing out.
Our manager seems keen to keep momentum going. He told RTE:
“We have Christie, Edouard, Griffiths, Turnbull, Soro, they are all available to play so hopefully that will give us a real spark going into this game.
“We are playing well, everybody is fit, available and there is good competition for places.”
Assuming Neil Lennon sticks with the spine of the team that has won the last 6 matches, Celtic fans can be truly optimistic ahead of the weekend.
New year, new outlook
Personally, I don’t like the “assuming we win our 3 games in hand” talk. We shouldn’t disrespect our opponents like that, and we should know by now that complacency doesn’t really work for us.
That said, assuming we win our 3 games in hand, there’s a 7-point gap (SPFL). That becomes 4 should Celtic best our rivals on Saturday.
Do you really think Rangers won’t lose or draw again this season? They’re good, sure, but they aren’t 100% record good.
Even if we draw, and nothing changes mathematically, there’ll still be 16 games to play before the end of the season. That’s a lot of football, and if Lennon has the luxury of continuing on Celtic’s current trajectory then things look positive.
To write Celtic off in December is ridiculous. No, the season hasn’t gone the way we would’ve wanted, and a lot of the blame for that is obvious. Yet, we’ve only actually lost one match this season.
The league is still within our reach. The fightback continues in earnest on Saturday at 12.30.