If there is one thing undeniable about tomorrow’s final, it’s that Rangers and Celtic (yes, we’ll be grown up and use their name) are going into this the most even-matched they have been for years, with rarely a past Old Firm encounter approaching when both sides were in absolute top form.
Absolutely toe-to-toe, both Glasgow giants are in imperious form, with that draw between them summing up their form since Michael Beale took charge of Rangers.
If we think back to Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s final Old Firm, that 4-0 demolition summed up where Rangers were domestically under him, and how far ahead Celtic actually were.
They are no longer that far ahead, they did get that huge head start, but Rangers have closed the gap in every single way bar points, with a consistency of performance and results since Beale arrived that has been lacking since 55.
Something tomorrow will give, but there really is a struggle to think of the last Rangers Celtic clash in which both sides were this evenly lining up.
Of course, it’s still Celtic at the summit – mathematically nothing has changed, they remain a huge gap ahead, and that won’t alter no matter what the result is tomorrow. But a win for Rangers may just put doubt in Parkhead minds that they are still ‘actually’ the best team in Scotland.
But that’s all for after the match – going into it, in the first place, both sides are about as even as they have ever been domestically – a complete conveyer belt in recent months of wins. That Beale has dragged Rangers up to win-after-win shows the impact he’s had, and it’s only Celtic’s insane relentlessness at the top which keeps them there.
Usually, going into one of these fixtures, one side is struggling, or in lesser form, or is clearly the current weaker team. As things stand, this one defies that, and both sides are about the same.
The difference is the gap, but it’s from before Beale’s time – he’s done an extraordinary job of shoring the team up and matching Celtic.
This match has the makings of a classic, and while we’re confident Rangers can win this one, it’s really up in the air.
Let the games commence.