Rangers next opponents in the League, Celtic, are reeling after news of players having to self-isolate, but let’s not get (too) overconfident…
I was in two minds on whether to write about this, honestly. There’s the risk it might come across as gloating, partially because a lot of it will be gloating, and then the added egg on my face if it never really makes a difference in the end anyway.
Rangers have started the season exceptionally well, unbeaten now in ten games and breaking the odd record on the way, it’s looking nice at the top. That, of course, comes with one big caveat – we haven’t played Celtic yet. Truly the real test of how good the Light Blues have actually become is the Old Firm. Winning against Ross County is great and all, but the Celtic wage bill is more than the rest of the League combined, they are on a whole new level. Of course, next Saturday we get the answer.
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If you think this week is going to drag, however, spare a thought for Hoops fans who are getting barraged daily with objectively bad news stories, The international break, and footballing gods, have been most unkind to the Green part of Glasgow. It used to be the fear that your stars would go off on duty for their country and pick up an injury, then 2020 came along and threw self-isolation into the mix.
Celtic ace Ryan Christie will miss the Old Firm because of COVID-19, we knew that already, now it seems defender Nir Bitton will have to do the same. Further, star striker Odsonne Edouard is a serious doubt due to self-isolation also.
You can’t help but smile at the irony of the club who were gifted an undeserved League title during a global pandemic, then finding themselves calling foul at the rules requiring their players to quarantine. The Coronavirus giveth and the Coronavirus taketh away.
Ultimately, it’s also Celtic’s biggest challenge of the year also. There’s only really Celtic and Rangers, that’s just how it is. Both clubs dwarf the rest of the table in size, depth of squad, funds, fanbase, everything. This year, with more at stake than ever before, the Gers are absolutely red hot and Celtic, somehow, have found three points in games when they deserved one or none. The pressure is absolutely tangible.
It’s up to Rangers to take advantage of the fortunate situation and ensure they get all three points, this is absolutely essential to winning the league
Yet here we go back to my hesitation to discuss this. All too easy it would be for Rangers to take the foot off the peddle here, a Celtic team missing a handful of their first team players could be cause for overconfidence. We’ve talk a lot before about the importance of respecting every opponent, and Steven Gerrard has seemingly drilled this into the lads well, but this is still a very big risk – especially since Celtic have such a deep and talented squad.
Their fans may be panicked, and that’s always fun to see, but make no mistake Celtic will be well up for this. It’s up to Rangers to take advantage of the fortunate situation and ensure they get all three points. Yes, three, if you want to win the League you need to beat Celtic. For that, Gerrard needs to ensure the team approach this game no differently than if the opponents were at full strength.
Who knows, we tend to do better against teams that actually come out and try to play football, so this could be a good one. Let’s hope there’s no more incidents, on either side, between now and then – so when we win, they won’t have too many excuses.