Ahead of Celtic v Rangers in this Sunday’s Glasgow derby at Ibrox, it’s imperative that we don’t make the same mistakes that cost us in March.
So much focus from ourselves and other Celtic fans will be on how dominant we’ve been in the last two matches. Nobody can take that away from us, and a similar performance this weekend is expected. In truth, it’s essential if we’re to progress beyond the fourth round of the Scottish Cup this season.
Anything below our best and we know we’ll come up short. That’s just the way of it. But at the same time, we know our strongest performance should be enough to boss our third consecutive derby.
However, despite how impressive we’ve been in those fixtures, we’ve still failed to win the last two. And the last one in March – a 1-1 stalemate at Celtic Park – was unforgivable. Celtic dominated the ball, dominated the opportunities, but were let down by two simple managerial errors.
The first one being the fact we left nobody on the post from corner-kicks. Rangers have proven themselves to be strong in the air next season, with plenty of their goals coming from cross-balls.
Same old Glasgow derby mistakes must be rectified by Celtic at Ibrox
Rangers’ equaliser back in March came from a front-post flick on that found its way to Alfredo Morelos at the back post. He was left totally unmarked and had the simple job of knocking it home unchallenged. If we had a man on the back stick? It would’ve been a simply clearance and Morelos would’ve gotten nowhere near the ball.
In truth, this was also a major reason as to why we lost at Ibrox back in January too. There was nobody at the back post available to clear Callum McGregor’s misdirected header.
Martin O’Neill was left stunned with this tactic in the last derby. Speaking on Sky Sports Main Event during their live broadcast [21/03, 14:07], O’Neill said: ” think if they had a man at the back post, they probably would’ve been able to have seen that situation and probably dealt with it just before Morelos got it.
“I am surprised, amazed, that teams do not have a man at the back post. You can place men all over the place defensively, but the back post (is key) because someone can get a flick whether it’s an outswinger or an inswinger, it doesn’t really matter.”
If we put one man on either stick, that blocks off the route to success that Rangers have used in the last two matches.
Kennedy must improve on his in-game decision-making
However, the second error must also be rectified this time around. Kennedy must inject freshness a lot earlier than he did in last month’s derby.
Kennedy made his first substitution in that one in the 79th minute. That’s despite the fact it was clear we needed fresh legs around the hour mark. The interim boss would then make three subs in the final five minutes. It stunk of a manager looking to protect the game and ensure he didn’t lose it. All it did was ensure our attacking spark fizzed out.
We simply must give the fresh legs more time to get involved this time around. If we’re to keep the tempo high at Ibrox, we need to ensure we don’t allow tired players to remain on the pitch. Not with the talent we have available in reserve.
In fairness to Kennedy, he’s shown more astuteness in this regard in recent matches against Falkirk and Livingston. He made three subs before the 75th minute mark vs Falkirk, and in Saturday’s 6-0 routing of Livi, Ryan Christie got half an hour whilst Albian Ajeti and Tom Rogic bagged over 20 minutes from the bench.
This is more like it. It gives players a short period to settle into the game before giving them a substantial enough period to try and make their mark.
If Kennedy can avoid making these two key errors that cost us in March, it’ll give us a better chance of securing success at Ibrox this time around.