Let’s face it – Rangers’ form isn’t great right now and while Celtic are barely all that much better, on Old Firm day since 2012 they always raise their level versus Rangers.
So, Saturday is going to be a tough nut to crack, and with up to 10 players missing from the home dressing room, Steven Gerrard’s task is made that touch harder.
So, how can Rangers defy the odds and pick up all three points for the first time against Celtic since Spring 2012?
It’s a big ask, but Rangers have one massive advantage in this one – it’s at Ibrox, and expectation is currently some of the lowest it’s been since the dark days of a few years ago when imposters like Darren McGregor were embarrassing our shirt at Hampden.
That lack of expectation and the venue gives Rangers an unlikely boost – 50,000 home fans backing the side on against our bitterest rival will get 150% from our players. If the boys in our shirt can’t get up for this one, they can all leave. Plus that lack of expectation has taken the pressure off Rangers in a big way – we’ve already lost at Parkhead and we’re expected to lose this one. It’s akin to a wounded animal.
Furthermore, form goes completely out of the window against Celtic. We’ve managed a couple of draws of course, when our side was in pretty mediocre form, so it can be done.
Tactically things have to be absolutely nailed on. We cannot have James Tavernier bombing on and leaving his defence exposed again and again – the captain must lead properly and stay disciplined.
At left back Steven Gerrard must select Lee Wallace. He’s the most experienced at winning this fixture, and he will help guide the likely pairing of Joe Worrall and Nikola Katic in the middle – those two must listen to both the man behind them and the man to the left of them, and make sure all four of the back men remain tight and disciplined. It is vital we avoid Tierney (a doubt to make it, incidentally), Forest and Sinclair getting behind our defence as easily as they’ve been known to, and mercifully there’s no Tom Rogic for this one.
Midfield must be much more disciplined too – Ryan Jack needs a big game, and Ross McCrorie, probably one of our best players overall the past wee while, has to come of age and produce at this level. Both of these two, admittedly likely hampered by the loss of Scott Arfield, must stay compact to the defence while focusing on nullifying Scott Brown and Callum McGregor, while Edouard is a big doubt for the clash anyway, which potentially removes a problem.
As for attack, Gerrard has to get the balance of midfield right – does he pack midfield and defence like he did v Hibs at Easter Road and which really should have got the result, or does he brave going a more attacking formation?
We feel the 4-2-3-1 is suiting us best right now, and would support Alfredo Morelos with Candeias, Grezda and Kyle Lafferty. We need men strong on the ball to help Morelos, and all three of those are.
We need big performances from as many of our big players as possible. Lafferty, Morelos, Jack and Wallace will be hugely needed for this one and if they step up and help to maintain discipline and shape, while concentrating 100% of the time, there is a chance Rangers can defy the odds and bring the three points home.
It will not be easy, Lord knows it won’t, but if Steven Gerrard and his Rangers XI can pull a rabbit out of the hat, they’ll send all of us home happy.