Glasgow Derby Preview

Celtic will play host to Rangers tomorrow afternoon in the fourth Glasgow Derby of the season in front of a full house of 60,000 Celtic fans.  Victory for Celtic would put the Hoops 12 points clear with just 7 games left and all but secure a second successive title for Ange Postecoglou.

With two wins, one in the League Cup Final, and a draw at Ibrox under their belts this season, Celtic are unbeaten in the three previous encounters between the clubs this term and go into the game in high spirits.

Last weekend’s win at Ross County was Celtic’s 15th in a row.  Despite a lacklustre performance without the creativity of Hatate and Mooy in midfield, goals from Jota and a first in the Hoops for Alexandro Bernabei were enough to keep Celtic 9-points clear at the top of the table.

Ahead of tomorrow’s game, Ange Postecoglou has confirmed that Reo Hatate will remain on the side lines, however, Aaron Mooy is back in contention for a starting spot and could return to the midfield.

No Reo, No Worries?

Celtic missed Hatate’s energy and guile in the tight confines of Victoria Park last week as Ross County looked to close ranks and deny Celtic time and space to play.  The Japanese midfielder’s clever passing and movement was sorely missed at times as Celtic struggled to break down a stubborn home defence.

However, with Aaron Mooy returning, potentially alongside McGregor and the lively O’Riley, the Celtic midfield should have enough craft about them to breakdown the Rangers backline in the more spacious environs of Celtic Park.

Part of Celtic’s issues last weekend lay with Callum McGregor moving up one to the number 8 role in midfield as Iwata replaced  Hatate in midfield.  While Iwata put in a strong performance, moving McGregor into the number 8 role appeared to unbalance the midfield a little as the captain was not able to perform his usual duties in the midfield anchor role.

Should Mooy return to the side at Iwata’s expense, it would allow McGregor to drop back to the number 6 position and regain his midfield regulator responsibilities that are key to keeping Celtic ticking over.

The re-introduction of the Aussie would also bring another calming yet creative option to the team in a game in which the home crowd will be urging their side on to attack from the first whistle.

Full House Home Advantage

The ongoing dispute over ticket allocations handed out by the Ibrox side has led to the situation whereby there will be no Rangers fans inside Celtic Park tomorrow.

While an unusual phenomenon, this is not the first time in recent years that away fans have been denied access to this fixture.  In fact, Ange’s first home Glasgow Derby last season took place under similar circumstances.

On that occasion, underneath the lights of a cold February evening, the Celtic crowd inspired the home side on to a 3-0 win that took the Hoops top of the table; a position they have not given up since.

Hatate was the hero of the hour in that game and while he will be missing tomorrow, the stage is set for Jota, Kyogo, or Mooy to steal the limelight in front of a 60,000 strong Celtic support that will make a riotous wall of noise as they look to drive their team on to another victory.

Cup Final Learnings

The last meeting of the sides back in February saw Celtic defeat Rangers 2-1 to win the League Cup final.  Celtic may not have been at their fluent best on that occasion but were able to lift their game in the moments that mattered, and kept Rangers at bay for the majority of the game.

Daizen Maeda was one such player who did not live up to his pre-match expectations in an attacking sense but more than made up for this with his work rate and defensive performance.  The Japanese forward was instrumental in keeping Tavernier quiet, this nullifying one of Rangers main attacking sources.

As is expected tomorrow, the Rangers midfield in the Cup Final was sent out with the task of stopping Celtic from playing and making the game a physical contest.  However, what they had not counted on was Callum McGregor once again raising his game and proving his mettle when the going got tough.  The Celtic skipper showing yet again that he has the ability to do the dirty side of the game as well as control the tempo of the game.

We also learned that Alistair Johnston simply ‘gets it’.  His swashbuckling performance at right back and in the inverted role moving into midfield was stunning and quashed the talk that Ange’s side can’t mix it in a physical battle.

As for Kyogo, he silenced his doubters once and for all converting to well crafted moves to bring the trophy back to Paradise.

Like the Cup Final, tomorrow’s game will likely be a tight affair and tougher than some expect due to the nature of the game and what is at stake.

That said, an early Celtic goal in front of a full house of Celtic fans could lead to a very interesting afternoon.

Possible Starting Line Up

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