As we head into the last game of 2019, both sides should be given credit for their domestic consistency given that they have probably played more matches than any other side in Europe this season.
Celtic have been on this treadmill for some time, of course, with a mid-July start nothing new. The cumulative impact of that can be seen in the physio room which resembles a scene from M*A*S*H.Listen to the latest episode of the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind
Lennon has teamed and ladled his selection and has settled on a configuration that can simultaneously get the best out of Christie, Forrest and Ntcham. With the ball, Ntcham is now dropping to an inside right 8 position. Playing deeper than 10 gives him the ability to pay the through-balls he excels at. Similarly, McGregor popped up with a goal on Thursday and his left-sided 8 role gives him more license to break into the box. This means Forrest and Christie can rotate around Edouard. The front three have 93 scoring contributions (assists + goals) between them.
Despite his hard-earned reputation for mendacity, The Rangers chairman, King, has delivered on some promises:
1. The Rangers are a “solid second” behind Celtic; and
2. Gerrard has been backed – they have the largest first-team squad in the country and the highest net transfer spend.
With 35 senior pros (6 out on loan), they have gone ‘all in’ this season. Progress in Europe and a cup final suggests it is all working out so far. Injuries have been minimal and league consistency remarkable.
Keeping tabs with Celtic’s 2.84 goals per SPFL game, The Rangers have less shots but are significantly more accurate. 46% of their efforts force keeper action whilst Celtic are accurate with only 36%. But there isn’t much in overall shot conversion with Celtic scoring from 15% of shots and The Rangers 16%.
The Rangers’ settled back line has only conceded 10 times in the SPFL. They do allow more shots and McGregor keeps the opposition shot conversion down to a meagre 10%. Forster is not far behind on 11%.
The Ibrox club have scored 23 goals in the last 30 minutes of league games and conceded only 2. Celtic have yet to drop points from a winning position. Something may have to give.
The League Cup final was something of a horror performance from Celtic. Can they be that bad again? Can The Rangers press be so effective? Will Morelos need 9 shots to score or > 7 fouls to get a yellow?
Coming to Celtic Park and winning will be a huge psychological barrier for the Ibrox club to overcome. Celtic are more optimally configured and have a winning mentality. But they have the fear of an 8-point deficit which will act as a powerful motivator.
Of course, it will be tight but I’ll take Celtic to prevail 2-1 with Edouard once again their scourge.
Alan MorrisonWatch Professor Willy Maley with A Celtic State of Mind