Rangers host Celtic in the first Old Firm game of the SPL season on Sunday, when the two sides meet at Ibrox, kick off 12.30pm.
Rarely do these two teams ever slip up in league play, so the importance of this showdown carries more importance than your usual derby of two top teams in domestic competition. Rangers lead their bitter rivals by a single point after this early stage with the Gers only dropping points against Hearts. Rangers don’t have to deal with European football after failing in the Champions League and then Europa League qualifying rounds. Celtic were well beaten in Madrid on Thursday and perhaps the fact that Ally McCoist’s men have only domestic affairs to focus on then they will be favourites not only for this game but to lift the trophy in May.
Neil Lennon and his squad will have a lot to say about those suggestions and will be looking to leap frog Rangers for the first time this season and take an early advantage. There was seven meetings between the sides last season and inevitably none of the games lacked talking points or incidents. No doubt, Sunday afternoon won’t be any different.
Neil Lennon’s side will hope to get back to winning ways after Thursday as their last 3 league matches saw them scoring 9 goals while keeping a clean sheet in all of them. Rangers have a fine defensive approach as well, having not conceded a goal in their last 5 league matches so it will be interested to see who can break through.
Rangers will be boosted by the return of Nikica Jelavic. The striker has recovered from a knee injury while McCoist will also have Lee McCulloch, Sasa Papac and Alejandro Bedoya available for the visit of the Bhoys. David Weir, Lee Wallace, Jamie Ness and Kyle Bartley all remain out though so it is mixed news on the injury front for the home side.
As for Celtic, they expect Anthony Stokes and Scott Brown back following injuries which kept them out of the trip to Madrid.
As always, it’s going to be a close, tight and frantic affair but the home side will have home advantage and that might just swing it, my prediction 2-1 Rangers.
You can follow the game with me on Sports News Ireland from 12.15pm on Sunday
Rangers (from): McGregor, Whittaker, Bocanegra, Ortiz, Goian, Broadfoot, Wylde, McKay, Davis, Edu, McCulloch, Naismith, Lafferty, Perry, Healy, Kerkar, Alexander, Fleck, Jelavic, Bedoya, Papac.
Celtic (from): Forster, Mark Wilson, El-Kaddouri, Matthews, Kelvin Wilson, Majstorovic, Loovens, Mulgrew, Kayal, Brown, Ki, Ledley, Bangura, Hooper, Forrest, Commons, Stokes, Samaras, Zaluska, Filip Twardzik, Wanyama.