There’s only one topic of conversation in offices, pubs and homes across Glasgow this weekend, as Celtic and Rangers do battle in the Ladbrokes Premiership on Saturday – their first top-flight meeting in four years.
The Hoops go into this one as the bookies’ favourites, but Rangers saw off the Parkhead outfit in the Scottish Cup last season. Ahead of this hotly-anticipated clash, we’ve taken a look at how each side can claim the points.
Pace will be key for the Hoops if they are to triumph in this one. While their opponents undoubtedly have quality in the spine of their team, they have rather less pace – with Joey Barton, Niko Kranjcar and Clint Hill (combined age – 103) all finishing the Gers 1-1 draw at Kilmarnock.
Quick front men have been a hallmark of Celtic’s game under Brendan Rodgers already, with lightning-fast Moussa Dembele and Patrick Roberts offering a good counterpoint to the clinical Leigh Griffiths.
The Hoops usually have to break down stubborn – and cautious – opponents at Celtic Park, so playing against Mark Warburton’s expansive Gers could actually see them operate successfully as a counter-attacking team.
Defensively, experience will be key. With the wily Kenny Miller in action, the best bet seems to be pairing the similarly savvy Kolo Toure up against him, while Barton’s intelligent range of passing means he needs to be closely marked throughout.
Those predicting the Bhoys will come good can back them for victory at 8/13, though with many of their goals coming late – with six beyond the 80-minute mark already this season – going for a draw at HT and Celtic to win at FT could offer plenty of value at 7/2.
With seven wins and two draws in their last nine outings, the 17/4 on a Rangers victory could prove very popular. They won four times at Celtic Park between 2007 and their exit from the top-flight in 2012 – and last season’s triumph over the Hoops show they have no nerves around this fixture.
So, what’s their most likely route to victory? Well, it’s more a case of outscoring the opposition than holding firm. Celtic only failed to score at home three times last season, and three of the Gers’ last four wins in their rivals’ backyard saw both teams find the net.
One key here is getting service to Miller. While Celtic’s backline are physically robust, they haven’t yet gelled as a unit, meaning a striker with Miller’s nous is likely to cause them serious problems – especially as he’s netted against the Hoops regularly, with goals against them in all three of his stints at Ibrox.
However, James Tavernier and Lee Wallace will also be crucial at full-back, especially if Warburton persists with the 4-3-3 formation, with Rangers needing to counteract Celtic’s wide players and get the ball into central midfield where they have men over on the hosts.
It’s 17/4 for a Rangers victory, but the best value for those backing the visitors could be on a 2-1 win at 14/1, with the hosts likely to score, while the Light Blues have recorded that margin in two of their last three outings.
The one thing we can predict with near-certainty is goals. This fixture has produced 14 goals on the last four occasions, so backing both teams to score at 8/11 looks like easy money.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing