Fran Alonso and his Celtic players have been keen to relay the message that this afternoon’s SWPL1 fixture is just another game, one where it is simply a case of three points up for grabs – but it’s not. Today is Glasgow Derby day and in terms of this season’s success and next season’s aspirations this afternoon’s tie at theRangers Training Centre is huge.
Celtic head into the game in fine form, unbeaten in nine and with eight of them wins, 30 goals scored and only two conceded as they go head-to-head with a team who are only a point ahead of the Hoops with four games to go. As such a win today would see the Celts leapfrog theRangers going into the final stages of the season and with little time for our opponents to claw back the points advantage.
For theRangers, an experienced and expensively invested in side in comparison to Celtic, they are also aware that Celtic hold the psychological edge with 1-0 wins both home and away, this despite the Hoops going into both encounters as the underdog. As such a one-point advantage at this stage of the season is bound to be viewed as precarious inside the home dressing room and Celtic can certainly use that psychological edge over what is bound to be a nervous opponent this afternoon.
It is almost impossible to second guess Fran Alonso’s tinkerman approach to choosing a first eleven, but after a rotated first team squad struggled to break down Hearts Celtic’s head coach waited until half-time and rang the changes, bringing in the experienced players and the impact was immediate as Celtic ran out 3-0 winners. It was the same in midweek as Celtic defeated Spartans with a strong side chosen to start the game and changes only made when Celtic, who eventually won by four goals, were out of danger.
One area however that has been interesting of late has been in the choice of goalkeeper and it will be interesting to see who Fran Alonso chooses between the sticks for this afternoon’s match. Chloe Logan has been first pick for most of the season, with Rachael Johnstone rotating for some of the less pressured matches, however Johnstone has now been chosen for two consecutive encounters and hasn’t put a foot wrong, as such Alonso has a huge call to make.
Defensively Celtic have a solid back four with Chloe Warrington impressing both defensively, and as she showed in setting up Mariah lee to score the winner when the sides met at Celtic Park, she is also a good starting point for any counter attack. Whist on the opposite side Chloe Craig and the versatile Jodie Bartle have both performed well at right back, as did Keeva Keenan when chosen the last time the sides met. Whilst in central defence you’d assume Alonso will perm any two from four of Kelly Clark, Caitlin Hayes or Craig and Bartle.
In midfield the balance of the left footed deeper lying Lisa Robertson alongside the slightly more advanced Anna Filbey has meant the loss of Natalie Ross in midfield hasn’t been felt as keenly as it otherwise may have been and both are bound to start today.
Meanwhile, the attacking options are plentiful with Jacynta hitting form and scoring her first goal against Spartans in midweek and Mariah Lee coping with the weight and expectation a number seven jersey at Celtic brings with big goals in big games, as today’s opponents know all about.
Up front Sarah Ewens has hit double figures now for this season and new signing London Pollard has looked a matchwinner in the making whenever she has entered the fray.
And just to ensure the head coach’s selection conundrum continues Rachel Donaldson has been banging in goals and threatening regularly and must also come into Fran Alonso’s thinking this afternoon, but will Sarah Teegarden be available to bring the creativity to the middle of the park or is Celtic’s inventive midfielder ‘doing a Soro’ and heading off to get married this weekend? I guess we’ll find out later on.
Much of the final selection will also be down to negating the threats in theRangers side and punishing the weaknesses today’s opponents have particularly on the counter attack and they certainly have players who can hurt Celtic today with Brogan Hay and Bala Devi both causing the Celts problems last time out.
For Celtic this game is all about putting Champion’s League qualification for next season, and the increased financial injection recently announced UEFA changes bring with it, into their own hands. A win today and Celtic will hold a two-point advantage over their rivals, and with games running out it would make Celtic massive favourites to be playing on the European stage. A win would also eat, temporarily at least, into the five-point advantage Glasgow City have at the top of the league as they look to win a 14th consecutive title and who play in the five o’clock kick off at home to Hibs.
Therefore, as much as Fran Alonso has been at pains to play down this fixture as just another game, he will know as well as anyone this is not just another three points, nor just another Glasgow Derby. It is a huge match, a massive three points and an outcome that will have a bearing on this season and next for Celtic.
You can watch Celtic’s encounter with theRangers live on BBC Alba this afternoon with a 4.10pm Kick Off. It is bound to be a cracker!
Photography Update: The Celtic Star is now working with Colin Poultney from Collarge Images to supply additional images of the Celtic FC Women matches.
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