Glasgow Derby Preview – The Key Battles Celtic Must Win

We face-off against our fierce rivals for what will be the third time this season in the Scottish Premiership on Sunday lunchtime in the 12 noon kick-off. A fairly tumultuous campaign for the Hoops and returning manager Brendan Rodgers, we’ve had to deal with successive and what feels like perennial injuries to key components of the team that won a Treble last year, whilst we lost considerable quality too.

In many ways it’s been bizarre in the sense that it hasn’t been the Ibrox club we have struggled against whatsoever, it seems to have been those teams that sit in and look to score against the run of play or equivalent. St Johnstone, Livingston and Kilmarnock have all given us issues in this respect and when we’ve come up against theRangers, despite these persistent worries, they haven’t bothered us all that much.

The Hoops masses will be hoping and praying for more of the same, after beating both Mick Beale and Philippe Clement who have had a bite at the cherry when it comes to landing a knockout punch on Brendan Rodgers. With some additions in the January transfer window, the Belgian has definitely added more depth and quality in the form of Fabio Silva and Mohamed Diomande. With a few players back from injury too, he has a bigger selection pool ahead of this one.

Although this may be true, Rodgers has also gotten a foothold on the injury crisis that has plagued us this year and the Bhoys have looked considerably more cohesive and competent since the return of key players. Cameron Carter-Vickers and Reo Hatate have came back from lengthy spells out and contributed very strongly in recent weeks. With Callum McGregor looking to potentially return to the fold too, we’re looking a lot closer to full strength for Sunday.

Starting with our opponents, let’s see how they might shape up on Sunday…

Despite rumours that theRangers have multiple injuries, it has always been thus before these massive games and their star men always seem to just make it regardless. It feels like it is just perpetual mind games and with that knowledge it’s safe to assume they will line-up at full strength for the fixture. Jack Butland will start in goal, with a back four of Tavernier, Goldson, Souttar, and the supposedly touch-and-go Yilmaz.

Clement will try and thwart our midfield having had to watch Callum McGregor absolutely dominate his side during the Festive period. So expect a double-pivot of Diomande and Lundstram, with Tom Lawrence tasked with trying to pin the Celtic captain back when he’s not looking to hurt us in attack.

Either side of Lawrence will likely be Wolves loanee, Fabio Silva, with Ross McCausland occupying the right flank. Up top will be Cyriel Dessers who will be dying to break his duck against the Champions.

Butland; Tavernier, Goldson, Souttar, Yilmaz; Diomande, Lundstram; Lawrence, Silva, McCausland; Dessers

Now let’s take a look at how Brendan Rodgers will try and mastermind another Beautiful Sunday in Govan…

Joe Hart of course starts in goals, with a back four consisting of Johnston, Carter-Vickers, Liam Scales and Greg Taylor. Scales was exceptional in his last-ditch defending at this venue back in September and we need the centre-back to put in another shift like that but also be smarter and slicker on the ball.

I have a feeling that’s why McGregor will start, so as to give Scales respite early on in the match as they chase that quick opener. Accompanying Cal Mac in the middle of the field will be the fantastic Reo Hatate and the steady as ever, Matt O’Riley. Ahead of them in the danger zone will be Daizen Maeda and Nicolas Kühn on the wings, with theRangers torturer Kyogo through the middle.

Celtic v Rangers – cinch Premiership – Celtic Park Celtic s Callum McGregor centre applauds the fans after the final whistle of the cinch Premiership match at Celtic Park, Glasgow. Picture date: Saturday December 30, 2023. Photo Jane Barlow

Hart; Johnston, Carter-Vickers, Scales, Taylor; McGregor, Hatate, O’Riley; Maeda, Kühn, Kyogo

It will be interesting to see the key battles that unfold across the field and if Celtic can win most of those, we could be leaving victorious. So, without any further ado, let’s take a closer look at those potential key battles for the Glasgow Derby match…

Key Battles

Callum McGregor v Lawrence

As has been noted, Clement will go with the Welshman Lawrence in that middle area of the three to try and perhaps combat the threat of McGregor and try to nullify his powers. The captain is fit but not “match fit”, as Brendan Rodgers put it yesterday afternoon to the media. The Belgian may feel this is an ideal time to place the former Derby County man on him as a man marker and make it more difficult for a player who is just returning from injury.

However, as we all know, this isn’t just any player and has shown multiple times in the past McGregor, that he’s almost super-human. It could just play into the Celtic boss’ hands if he puts a marker on the semi-fit (or so Rodgers made out) Hoops skipper. If McGregor can even produce half the magic that he did on his last outing at Ibrox stadium, we could be in for a good afternoon.

Maeda v Tavernier

He’s done it on many occasions before now and understands what it takes to pin theRangers full-back into his own half and take away the strongest element in his arsenal. Tavernier can’t defend to a high-level, that much is certain, and if Maeda can use that lightening pace and ominous engine aggression to full effect, one of their main threats is immediately disarmed as we look to get a grip on proceedings.

I feel this one could be crucial in deciding the outcome of the match. In spite of all the flak he takes and obvious deficiencies technically, there’s nobody I would rather have in this role than Dazien for this Glasgow Derby.

Kyogo v Goldson

Many of the dark side have been up in arms about Goldson lately, with several instances where he’s sold the jersey or “looked his age” as they say coming to the fore more and more. He’s someone who can be gotten at – same goes for his defensive fulcrum Souttar.

Decent defenders but by no means world beaters. Both can be slow and heavy footed too at times and this should suit our talismanic striker down to the ground. His last goal against them was sheer class and the one at Ibrox showed his killer instincts too. Goldson will have it all in the back of his mind and if they go chasing that early goal, it could allow the Japan star to work his lethal magic.

It promises to be exciting no matter what!

Paul Gillespie

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About Author

I'm a Garngad Bhoy through and through. My first ever Celtic game was a friendly against Italian side Parma at Celtic Park, in 2002. Currently a student of English Literature and Education at the University of Strathclyde for my sins. Favourite game would be a toss up between beating Manchester United with that Naka freekick, or the game against the Oldco when Hesselink scored in the dying seconds. I'm still convinced Cal Mac is wasted playing that far back.

1 Comment

  1. Wouldn’t disagree about how you see the 2 teams lining out at the start.
    Still believe that we have stronger players in all of the positions where the key individual battles will take place imo?
    So win the majority of these individual battles and the extra quality within our player’s, should be enough to earn ourselves the victory imo?
    Potentially the most key battle could well involve kuhn and then yang down our right hand side?
    Our link up play has been very impressive of late with Johnston, Oreily and kuhn really working well together and creating plenty of opportunities for ourselves?
    Also believe its an area to get at the scum and take a huge advantage in what I believe as a massive weakness within the scums defence?
    The same could possibly be said about our left side of the defence also,but again believe we are both stronger defensively and especially attacking that area moreso than the scum have to offer imo?
    The biggest danger to ourselves, still remains the cheating from the scum in trying to con and win decisions in and around our penalty area, which cheating Beaton will certainly assist the scum with also, so will require a strong and disciplined defensive display from ourselves, to stop cheating Beaton becoming so relevant for the scum in an attacking sense imo?
    These games can often make new heroes for ourselves, and think kuhn may just be that player for ourselves tomorrow, and even yang is capable of getting in on the act also, later in the game imo?