Celtic’s long overdue opportunity today against the Rangers

Celtic head to Hampden today with their eyes firmly set on completing a league and cup double, a feat which would turn a season that looked ominous at one point in to a campaign that will be celebrated long into the summer.

Kyogo Furuhashi scores the winner at Ibrox on September 03, 2023. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

While we meekly surrendered our League Cup early in the campaign, exiting the competition in the second round after getting beat 1-0 at Rugby Park, we have rallied since then and just last week were able to secure the league title against the same opponents. Now we take on theRangers at the national stadium hoping to keep the Scottish Cup in the hands of the competition’s most successful club.

Celtic head into this final with a squad that, unlike in the early parts of the season, is all fully fit. It has also hit a purple patch of form that has seen us play our best football of the season over these past few weeks. We go up against a side who couldn’t be anymore different. A team who is not only missing key players, but is also out of form. They shouldn’t be taken lightly however, like a wounded animal.  They have already won the League Cup this season and their slightly deranged manager Philippe Clement will be determined to end the season on a high after blowing his lead in the league title race. His reputation amongst the hoardes at Ibrox depends on it.

Callum McGregor celebrates the win at the Ibrox on Sunday September 3, 2023. Photo Andrew Milligan

Celtic are the bookies favourites for a reason however and I actually feel that any gamblers out there are still getting good odds on Celtic winning this one, with all signs pointing towards that outcome. Absolutely anything can happen in such a big game like this however. A sending off. A penalty. These type of incidents could easily change a game and with the standard of refereeing in Scotland there is a high chance that we could end up on the wrong side of a terrible, game changing decision.

As I mentioned earlier, this Celtic team has hit a purple patch at the most important stage of the season. We were magnificent against Hearts a few weeks ago and again against Kilmarnock as we wrapped up the league title at Rugby Park. When we went 2-0 up against theRangers a couple of weeks ago, I felt like we were finally going to give them the hammering we have been threatening all season.

Kyogo Furuhashi celebrates after scoring at Ibrox on September 03, 2023. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Unfortunately we lost a sloppy goal but our hopes of a thrashing rose again as John Lundstrum got himself sent off for a dangerous tackle on Alistair Johnston. We failed to ignite in the second half and seemed to completely lose our focus after Matt O’Riley’s wasteful missed penalty. Although we held on for the win without too much fuss, failing to bury them definitely brought about much unnecessary anxiety towards the end, both on the pitch and in the stands.

I said in my match report after that game that maybe we are saving the hammering they deserve for the Scottish Cup final and I hope I’m right. Although we will all happily take winning the cup no matter how we do it today, I feel like it’s an opportunity to set the tone ahead of next season. Their fans are already starting to turn on the Belgian Waffle, a heavy defeat today will see the negativity surrounding the club reach the whole way into next season which will be a huge added bonus for Celtic.

Kyogo Furuhashi celebrates scoring at Ibrox on September 03, 2023.(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

If we manage to get ourselves into a strong position during the match, as we have done in our last two meetings with them where we have twice taken a two goal lead, we must keep our foot on the accelerator and go for more goals. We are a much better team when playing on the front foot rather than trying to protect a lead. This is a strong Celtic team, and as I said previously we have no injuries which means a bench full of talent waiting to come on. If we are leading into the second half, unleash our attacking threats from the bench to put the nail in the coffin.

Kyogo celebrates with Matt O’ Riley after scoring at Ibrox on Sunday 3 September, 2023. Photo Andrew Milligan

Personally I think we will run out 3-1 winners today. I can see Callum McGregor playing a pivotal role yet again and have a sneaking suspicion that we may see James Forrest on the score sheet also. It’s in big games like this that the experienced players come to the fore and I will be expecting this one to be no different. In the end I will be more than happy with any victory but would absolutely love to see us put in a full 90 minute performance that proves in no uncertain terms who are the top dogs in Scottish football.

It’s more than overdue.


Conall McGinty

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About Author

Hailing from Cushendall in the North of Ireland my formative years were spent watching Celtic during our barren spell through the 90's which meant I have appreciated our recent trophy-laden spell even more. Favourite matches home and away I've attended has to be beating Man Utd 1-0 at Celtic Park and being with my 2 brothers watching us beat Lazio 2-1 in Rome. Best away day experience? Has to be Munich with friends from Coatbridge...what a few days!

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