Rangers FC get set to take on Celtic FC in the latest edition of the Old Firm
“Thoughts on the Upcoming Old Firm game?”
A simple question posted on the Rangers subreddit and one I knew would validate my own feelings leading up to the game. Put it this way I have never been so amenable to my wife suggesting a trip to the cinema that day when in years previous, the old firm game was firmly slapped in the diary months in advance to make sure she didn’t get any grandiose ideas about spending quality time together or any such mush.
Among many things I wouldn’t have done much different if I were Mark Warburton. I am definitely not some football management guru outside computer games but I always have the benefit of hindsight and the benefit of beers down the pub where I can solve our problems and alter reality by changing one or 2 personnel.
In this case however, I wanted Rangers to grab the game by the scruff of the neck from the off. High tempo, high energy, attacking players with Barton roaming around as a midfield enforcer putting his money where his mouth is.
And we all know how that turned out.
Well things have changed at Rangers and we are starting to resemble a solid outfit. Joey Barton has shown exactly where he puts his money and is now in a Schrodinger’s cat situation where he both plays and doesn’t play for Rangers. Celtic captain Scott Brown has said today that Rangers are better off without him and it is hard to disagree.
Halliday has been restored to the side and his tireless work in midfield means that we can afford luxuries like Niko Kranjcar and Jason Holt who can muster his creativity to find a way through these tough SPFL defences. It is no coincidence that Rangers upturn in form has coincided with Holt’s return from injury as his aggressive runs are key to the way Rangers want to play.
Warburton has also applied the brakes on Rangers aggressive attacking tactics which left the defence vulnerable and we are starting to see more support for Clint Hill whom personally has gone from fall guy to first choice central defender with a series of clean sheets.
So with that all in mind how would I set the Rangers team up? Well the awkward thing is that of the players I mentioned above two of my first choice just happen to be injured. Krancjar has apparently suffered a really bad knee injury which may rule him out for the season and Wilson was absent against Inverness Cali.
I would expect Matt Gilks to continue his run in the League cup between the sticks, a seemingly able deputy who has so far not conceded a goal and not someone I would worry about. It looks like our hand will be forced and Rob Kiernan will probably be the first choice to partner Hill in central defence, we need some more youthful pace but your heart will be in your mouth for every Celtic attack which does keep things interesting I guess.
Crooks could be another option but his lack of game time would surely see Sanderos being trusted as backup. Wallace and Tavernier are easy picks who can offer attacking flair going forward but will no doubt be restrained on Sunday.
Halliday is easily the first name on the team sheet these days, he knows what this occasion is about and did a marvellous job controlling the midfield in the Scottish Cup Semi final last season. This will be a very different proposition as Scott Brown is now injury free and has been on great form domestically and in the Champions league.
With that in mind I think Rossiter would be a great central midfield partner which may even allow Halliday a bit of freedom up the park. What’s working against him is his recent lack of game time as he comes back from injury.
We can’t really afford to have too many creative midfielders as the defence will need protection from a rejuvenated James Forrest, Scott Sinclair (the best player in the SPFL) and the free scoring Dembele and Griffiths, still a place for Holt though and I am keen to see how he gets on against a defence like Celtic’s.
Up front I would start Miller as a loan striker, you just can’t drop him from an old firm and his sensational winner against Inverness last week just sums up the quality he is still able to deliver. Miller will probably be looking to pick up the ball in front or behind the defence if we are being more defensive and with that in mind we would require runs from the midfield for link up.
Is this the time for the return of Harry Forrester? He could be the answer for the creativity gap that Krancjar’s absence brings. When he came on against Hamilton he was delivering some great passes for Waghorn to latch onto and is comfortable on the wing and through the middle as the Rangers frontline tends to switch it around.
I am leaving Garner on the bench for this clash as less creativity in defence and midfield will mean more creativity is needed in attack and Waghorn is capable of running at players and also knows where the goal is. There is no place in my squad for Barrie McKay but I know when is brought on in the 70th minute he will have a chance to make an impact. The idea of this squad is contain and to try go for the win.
So what do you think? Have I shown today why I wasn’t offered the Rangers managers post? Am I a fool for leaving out Windass and McKay? To go back to the start of this article I am not expecting much.
Celtic are coming out the back of a brutal Champions league home defeat and Rangers are a much better outfit than when the sides last met but Celtic are by far the strongest side in the league and you just don’t pass up the chance to give your rivals a kicking.
I will go for 3-1 to Celtic bearing in mind this is a one off cup game where you have more license to twist rather than stick. When Warburton twists, and he is a twisty man, we are much more vulnerable at the back as our attacking moves draw in player after player.
Unfortunately as a lifelong Rangers fan I have scheduled myself for at least 90 minutes of misery and a guaranteed 2 weeks of Whatsapp abuse. The 2.30pm showing of Jack Reacher has never been more appealing but that’s football for you and the Whatsapp’s always find you in the end. I struggle to think of a time where this fixture was so lopsided with a clear favorite but Rangers have brought me plenty of good times and it would be rude of me to desert them during the bad.
Follow with Pride and let’s keep all the headlines on the pitch!