The first Old Firm clash of the season kicks off at Ibrox this Saturday. We asked our Scottish football betting expert Andrew Mount to preview this one…
Rangers and Celtic have squared up a whopping 408 times in major competitions, with the former winning 159 to Celtic’s 151 (98 draws). However, in recent years it’s been mostly one-way traffic, and last season’s six clashes saw Celtic victorious on five occasions – including a 5-1 thrashing both home and away.
A rude awakening in the Champions League
We’re only in September but this will be Celtic’s 17th competitive fixture of the current campaign, thanks to a prolonged qualifying campaign for the Champions League group stages. The Hoops were given a rude awakening when thrashed 5-0 at home by Paris St Germain in their opening Champions League, but there are few teams in the world who would have been able to withstand a forward line led by £200m Brazilian superstar Neymar.
Celtic bounced back just four days later to beat Ross County 4-0 in the Scottish Premiership, taking their record to five wins and one draw from six league games. This cemented their place at the top of the SPL – a position they have been used to in recent history – where they lead an also-unbeaten Aberdeen by two points.
Australian midfielder Tom Rogic opened the scoring in the 13th minute before Moussa Dembele, returning to the side after a hamstring injury, made it 2-0. Two second-half goals from James Forrest made the scoreline comfortable, and Celtic have now gone 55 games since their latest domestic defeat.
A big ask for Rangers?
Rangers finished 39 points behind their arch-rivals when third in last season’s Premiership and they currently fill the same position after a mixed start to the current campaign. An opening day win at Motherwell was followed by a 3-2 home defeat by Hibernian, but since then the Gers have been unbeaten, picking up two draws and two wins.
Poor finishing has been the problem and it was a similar story at Partick Thistle last week where they found themselves 2-1 down on the hour mark after leading 1-0. With their opponents reduced to ten men, Rangers dominated the closing stages, equalising on 73 minutes thanks to a stunning strike from Graham Dorrans. But they couldn’t find a winner.
Concerning injuries for the Gers
Pedro Caixinha’s side returned to Partick in the League Cup on Tuesday night, prevailing 3-1 after extra time in a game they should have killed off long before Kris Doolan’s 90th-minute equaliser. However, victory came at a price, with defenders Bruno Alves and Decal John picking up injuries and rated doubtful for Saturday’s big match.
Rangers will take heart from their 1-1 league draw at Celtic Park in December, but it’s difficult to oppose the Champions in their current form. The Gers have lacked finishing prowess this season, but have created plenty of chances. This makes backing both teams to score appealing at 8/13. It might also pay to back Rangers half-time, Celtic full-time, as the home side have been quick out of the traps this season, opening the scoring in five of their six league fixtures (the other was a 0-0 draw).
When time does Rangers v Celtic start?
Rangers v Celtic, Saturday 23 September 2017, 12:00