Gerrard looks to overtake mentor Rodgers in first Old Firm meeting
Fresh off the back of their Europa League qualification, a rejuvenated Rangers under Steven Gerrard head into an Old Firm in their best state for many years. Can Celtic keep up their dominance in the derby? Grant Barnes previews.
There was good news for Scottish football on Thursday night as Celtic and Rangers clinched their place in the group stages of the Europa League. However, there will be few in Glasgow with their eyes on a European tour, as one of the more intriguing Old Firm matches in recent years takes place on Sunday.
For Celtic, the derby comes after a turbulent transfer window, to say the least. After securing the return of French striker Odsonne Edouard early on in the window, Celtic failed in their pursuit of John McGinn and looked set to lose Derdryck Boyata after the defender reportedly refused to play in the Champions League qualifier against AEK Athens. Defeat to Athens was quickly followed by mounting interest in Edouard’s compatriot Moussa Dembele, whose cryptic tweets following Thursday night’s results left little to the imagination as to Dembele’s feelings on the matter, which eventually led to the £19.7 million sale of the Frenchman.
The discontent between the fans and the board during this window has been evident in a few sluggish Celtic performances so far this season, particularly the crushing exit in the Champions League. Despite the arrival of Leicester City centre half Filip Benkovic on loan and the acquisition of midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu, this transfer window will be one Celtic fans do not look back fondly on.
Recent Old Firm matches have made for grim viewing for Rangers fans in the past few years, however with the arrival of Steven Gerrard there is a revived optimism at Ibrox. Gerrard wasted no time in strengthening his squad upon arriving in Glasgow, and has a new look back four, a reinforced steel in the midfield, and is seemingly beginning to get the best out of Alfredo Morelos, barring the striker’s obvious discipline issues.
Rangers’ new arrivals have made an instant impact on the park, and despite a late collapse to Motherwell last week, Rangers have looked a much improved side from last year. The fans appear to be re-energised, with masses of Rangers fans descending upon Glasgow airport last night to welcome their team back from Russia. There is a buoyed optimism around Rangers, however the real test will begin Sunday to see if Rangers can finally beat their duck over their city rivals.
Heading into Sunday’s game the momentum is most definitely with Rangers, however how Gerrard adapts to his first Old Firm game is yet to be seen, albeit this will not be his first taste of a game of this magnitude. Celtic will be hoping to put a turbulent window behind them by imposing their mark on their quest for yet another league title with another resounding win over their city rivals.