PLAYING in the Glasgow Derby was one of the reasons that Jerry Toljan left Borussia Dortmund in January to sign on at Celtic for a six month loan deal. So the German right back is excited at the prospect of playing his part in the game against the Rangers on Sunday at Celtic Park.
With the Ibrox club out of the Scottish Cup, there’s going to be just the four meetings between the two local rivals this season and so far it’s honours even with both sides having a 1-0 home win to their names. Sunday gives Celtic the chance to take the lead in the head to head and more importantly extent the lead at the top of the Premiership to an unassailable 13 points.
“Before I came to Celtic, I was very aware of the Celtic versus Rangers fixture,” Toljan told this week’s Celtic View.
“This game is talked about and discussed and analysed all over the world. Everyone knows it’s one of the biggest derbies in club football, and it’s a highlight for me to be part of.
“I really can’t wait to feel the atmosphere, especially at home, I think that will be great! Hopefully we can win this game, no matter if I start or not, and hopefully extend our lead at the top of the table to 13 points.”
When Toljan was considering his move to Celtic the league table was much closer. After the loss at Ibrox on 29 December – the final game before the winter break – the two sides were level on points, although Celtic had a better goal difference and had a game in hand. But while Celtic have been relentless in adding to their points total, often through never say die last minute winners, the Ibrox club have been inconsistent to say the least and have dropped points to the likes of Kilmarnock, Dundee and St Johnstone. That all combined to give Celtic the ten point cushion going into Sunday.
“The gap at the top certainly helps,” Toljan said.
“You can go into the game very comfortable, but even though we don’t need to win, we want to win and we want to win convincingly, that’s for sure! Our league lead allows us to go into the game with a little more comfort, and allows us to play our game, especially at home.
“As for our recent last-minute wins, it’s a good sign that we always have that belief. Since I’ve come into the squad, I always feel we can score, no matter what time in the game, and this is very good for the team overall.
“Against Kilmarnock, against Hearts and against Dundee, we always believed until the end, and it doesn’t matter if you score in the first minute or the last minute, we have to win the games, and every game is so difficult in this league.
“You always have to fight for it, and it’s a great sign that we’re able to do that.”
Meanwhile Celtic keeper Scott Bain, who made his Celtic debut against Rangers at Ibrox a year ago on what became known as Beautiful Sunday reckons that the fixture is better when the full allocation of away supporters are present. The celebrations at Ibrox on Beautiful Sunday came on the back of several other Celtic wins there and it all became too much for the more sensitive souls in the Ibrox support.
So the Free Broomloan was lost to the good guys and Celtic responded in kind by restricting them to 800 visiting fans for the game last September, and that will be the situation this weekend.
“There will be a lot more Celtic fans than the last time we played them,” Bain said.
“There will be less Rangers fans and we need to use the atmosphere. If anything, I like it when there are more away fans. It creates a better atmosphere, more of Glasgow derby feeling. But it is what it is.”