In the Glasgow Derby, the winner takes it all, the loser has to fall

Celtic take on theRangers in the Scottish Cup Final tomorrow as the top two in the SPL battle it out for the last piece of silverware on offer this season in Scottish football.

Celtic, having already won the league are going into the first ever Glasgow Derby Scottish Cup final as strong favourites. Brendan Rodgers has a full squad to choose from with the earlier injury problems all having cleared up at the business end of the season.

 theRangers manager Philippe Clement and Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers embrace on the final whistle after the Scottish Premiership match at Ibrox on April 07, 2024.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

In contract Philippe Clement hasn’t got his troubles to seek with it seems more players on the treatment table than the training pitch and the Belgian openly admitting that he’s have to take significant risks with some of his starting eleven at Hampden in a desperate attempt to get the better of Celtic for the first time this season.

Of course Clement has already had his hands on silverware in his first season in the job, coming in in the autumn to replace Michael Beale who certainly talked the talk but could never beat Celtic when it mattered.

Michael Beale, Manager of theRangers, reacts during the Cinch Scottish Premiership defeat to at Ibrox Stadium on September 03, 2023 (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Kilmarnock did that though in the League Cup with a shock victory over holders Celtic last August and that essentially cleared the major hurdle for theRangers to lift one of Celtic’s three trophies in the treble won by Ange Postecoglou last season before he moved onto the Premier League to manage Tottenham.

Beale negotiated theRangers thorough to the final of the League Cup and Clement got them over the line against Aberdeen in the final and at that stage there was wild talk of an unlikely treble for theRangers as Celtic stuttered and continued to drop points when it was least expected.

But the story of the season came down to theRangers just not being able to beat Celtic. Having won the dead rubber against Celtic convincingly at Ibrox the tail end of last season, hopes were high or a repeat performance and outcome in the first meeting of this season at Ibrox in early September. Then Celtic had a significant injury list and theRangers were at full strength, plus there were away supporters in the stadium. Yet Celtic won 1-0 thanks to a magnificent goal from Kyogo.

Beale fell seven points behind Celtic by October and he was out the door, with Clement, who had recently been sacked by Monaco, coming in. The League Cup was won but he lost his first Glasgow Derby at Celtic Park at the end of the year.

By April though, Clement faced Celtic at Ibrox knowing that a win would mean the title would be out of Celtic’s hands. He ended up celebrating a 3-3 draw, thanks to a last gasp equaliser for theRangers, before losing to lowly Ross County in Dingwall and dropping two more points against Dundee on their fine playing surface at Dens Park.

Come the split both sides knew that they had the destination of the title in their own hands but for Clement that included a second trip to Celtic Park add another defeat. In the end Clement got theRangers into pole position to win the title, and strong bookies favourites, to ending up eight points behind Celtic, one point worse off than than when he arrived to replace Michael Beale.

And like Beale he has failed to beat Celtic when it matters. Indeed he’s failed to beat Celtic full stop as there was no comfort blanket dead rubber success to get them through the summer like last year.

But Clement has a bigger opportunity in the Scottish Cup Final on Saturday 25 May 2024. Win that and he turns a corner and will have theRangers support back onside and optimistic about the challenges ahead next season. If Clement loses however and he goes four matches at three grounds without being able to lay a glove of Brendan Rodgers and his side then the pressure will start to mount.

In Glasgow there are only two positions for the top two, first and last and the loser is almost certainly going to take a fall. Philippe Clement just has to ask Michael Beale all about that.

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