The Old Firm Derby is set for October 17th, but Rangers FC will have an advantage heading into that battle.
Rangers FC and rivals Celtic are neck and neck in the Scottish Premiership standings, as expected, but their first showdown is quickly approaching. The first Old Firm Derby of the season will take place on October 17th at Celtic Park.
Both teams are enjoying great form this season, although Rangers are the only side that have managed to avoid any major upsets and eliminations from tournaments this term.
Okay, okay, it is time to play nice again. The Scottish giants will each have three fixtures before the main event in Glasgow.
Celtic will be at a disadvantage, though, due to their schedule. Neil Lennon’s side will be tested against Hibernian, but, on paper, FK Sarajevo (Europa League) and St. Johnstone should be walks in the park for Celtic. Well, I take that back.
Celtic were defeated by Hungarian champions Ferencvaros in the Champions League, and Riga pushed Celtic to the limit as well, so maybe Sarajevo will be an obstacle after all, but they should not be for the quality Lennon has at his disposal.
So, as some of you read this, you are wondering “how would winning three consecutive games ahead of the derby be a bad thing for Celtic?” It would not be “bad”, but they will not be challenged. The last two games could lead to complacency for Celtic before such an important game.
The fact that Celtic have to travel to Bosnia for a Thursday night game, and prepare for league action on Sunday could also lead to a lethargic performance against St. Johnstone, which would be even worse in terms of generating any momentum ahead of this famous derby.
Rangers, on the other hand, will go up against a Motherwell side that is turning the corner, Turkish giants Galatasaray at Ibrox, and a scrappy team in fifth-placed Ross County.
Both teams will have two weeks off to prepare for the Old Firm Derby, but Rangers will enter that game having overcome more quality and adversity. Galatasaray will be a major test for Rangers, and a win in that Europa League encounter would serve as a major boost of confidence for a side that is already flying high.
Finding motivation to claim three significant points, as well as street cred, will not be lacking in either camp, and the team that displays more collective urgency will celebrate in the end. However, Celtic’s schedule will do little to effectively prepare them for the dynamic threat that is Rangers.
Steven Gerrard’s men have won three of the last five derbies in the Premiership with a goal differential of +4. What is more important to note is the fact that Rangers have only injected more quality into their squad.
It remains to be seen how the teams will perform over the next two weeks, but Rangers will feel sufficiently prepared for Celtic on October 17th as a result of their strength of schedule.