02 September 2023

Talking points ahead of the first Old Firm derby of the season

02 September 2023

Rangers and Celtic meet for the first time this season when they clash at Ibrox in the cinch Premiership on Sunday.

Both sides have already dropped points in the cinch Premiership title race.

Here are some major talking points ahead of the noon kick-off.

Form has already gone out the window

The cliche claims that recent results do not matter when these teams meet, although that is not always backed up by facts. However, this time round both sides come into the game looking for a lift. Celtic crashed out of the Viaplay Cup at Kilmarnock and were then held to a goalless league draw by bottom club St Johnstone at Parkhead. It was the first time since May 2018 they had failed to score in consecutive domestic games. Rangers lost their Premiership opener at Kilmarnock and host their rivals on the back of a 5-1 defeat by PSV Eindhoven which crushed their Champions League ambitions. Victory for either side would change the narrative quickly, while the losers would be left facing serious scrutiny.

The master against the apprentice

Brendan Rodgers faced his former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard in his most recent meetings with Rangers in his first spell as Celtic boss and he faces another familiar foe this time in Michael Beale. The pair were both on the coaching staff at Chelsea at the same time and Beale worked in the Liverpool academy while Rodgers was Anfield boss.

Rivalry on but not off the park

There will be no Celtic fans present at Ibrox after the visiting club decided against taking a small allocation for safety reasons. Celtic are believed to be keen to restore the traditional allocations of about 7,500 tickets for visiting fans, which helped make the game such a spectacle. Rangers abandoned that formula ahead of the 2018-19 season and cut the away allocation to around 10 per cent of that figure, with Celtic following suit, before both clubs decided against taking the allocation last term, although the Light Blues are believed to want tickets for their next trip to Celtic Park. Some Celtic fans last week accused Rangers of “killing the derby” and the issue looks unlikely to be resolved soon.

Debuts galore

Rangers will field some of their nine summer signings, while Celtic are set to have a new-look central defence with four of their centre-backs out injured. Nat Phillips arrived on loan from Liverpool in midweek and could find himself facing a baptism of fire given he has big-game experience under his belt. Honduras winger Luis Palma and Portugal Under-21 midfielder Paulo Bernardo will also be assessed after arriving at Celtic in recent days and both could feature on the bench at least.

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