Friday, August 19, 2022

Old Firm Approaching As Celtic & Rangers Both Have Important Tasks: How Will Gerrard & Lennon Set Up?

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So the Old Firm is almost upon us as the clash between Rangers and Celtic is less than 48 hours away. Already the atmosphere is heating up as both teams know the importance of this encounter. It’s an absolute shame that there will be no crowd at Ibrox, but it is what it is. The players will know what’s at stake even without the crowd and hopefully, we all get a match worth remembering.

Celtic are coming back into some semblance of form, or so it seems. But truthfully, it’s a bit of a mirage. Since somehow beating now Championship side Hearts on penalties for last season’s Scottish Cup, the performances have been far from inspiring. While Lennon finally learnt his lesson of not playing Duffy and Brown for every minute of every match, the issues are still there. A pedestrian performance against Ross County where they won 2-0 followed up by beating Hamilton’s B side where they got a huge break for the opening goal by winning one of the dodgiest penalty you will see all season.

The last match had a scoreline of 3-0 against Dundee United, but honestly, the scoreline flattered Celtic. All 3 goals had an element of fortune in it. I am not saying Celtic should not have won on the balance of play. Far from it, but the scoreline definitely flattered Lennon’s men’s performance.

Celtic have won the matches they were absolutely expected to cruise. A good performance (even if it does not translate into a result) Vs Rangers is needed before we can say that the tide has been turned. Otherwise how fair is it that we are talking about a mini turnaround for Celtic when all they have beaten in this run are Kilmarnock at home, now Championship side Hearts in a penalty shootout, Ross County at home again, Hamilton who had to offer almost a B side and Dundee United again at home.

KILMARNOCK, SCOTLAND – AUGUST 09: Chris Burke of Kilmarnock scores a penalty past Vasilis Barkas during the Scottish Premier League match between Kilmarnock and Celtic at Rugby Park on August 09, 2020 in Kilmarnock, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The test for the likes of Barkas, Turnbull and Soro will come on Saturday, have no doubt about it. That is where the pressure will be. This game’s unique situation means that anything other than a win for Celtic would make it really difficult for them to win the league. The pressure is all on Lennon’s men, and it would be interesting to see how the likes of Barkas, Turnbull and Soro deals with that.

On the other hand, Rangers, apart from the one blip against St. Mirren in the League Cup, have been absolutely dominating. The only two questions that Gerrard will face ahead of Saturday is 1) Kent or Hagi and 2) Helander or Balogun? If you ask me, it should be Kent (and everyone here knows how much I love Hagi) and Helander.

Kent has experience of Old Firms, and you know he will turn up against a match Vs Celtic. While his form has been underwhelming in the recent few weeks, this would be the perfect opportunity for Kent to make a mark. With players like Aribo, Morelos and Roofe all set to be carefully monitored by Celtic, Kent could be the one to take advantage. We will see how that turns out as I intend to go into more details tomorrow.

Oh, and I know many of you have seen that horror challenge of Odsonne Edouard on Peter Pawlett of Dundee United. However, don’t expect anything to be resolved before the Old Firm. Even if by some miracle, the SFA Compliance Officer decides to send a notice of complaint to the Celtic forward, it’s almost guaranteed that an appeal will come in which ensures that Edouard will play against Rangers.

That’s all for today. Wishing you all a very happy new year.

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