First Touch

Rangers Aim To Close The Gap

Will Saturday’s Glasgow derby resolve the Scottish Premiership title race? Officially, no, and certainly not if Rangers can secure a result against Celtic at Parkhead.

celtic and rangers logos

The Full Scottish

By Brian P. Dunleavy

So, Rangers gaffer Michael Beale is right to downplay the significance of this weekend’s fixture, at least within the media.

“Everyone knows where the position is in the league table,” Beale is quoted as saying, per Football Scotland. “We’ll just take care of that and then after that it will move the goal posts a little bit one way or another. But with the form both teams are in, you’d have to say it would only move it a little bit either way.”

Although we understand the need for the “snow job” in advance of the match, it’s that last bit that takes Beale’s comments over the line. Our line anyway. Yes, both Celtic and Rangers are in excellent form. The Ibrox side are undefeated in their last 21 in league play, with draws against Celtic and St. Mirren the only blemishes on their record.

However, there is the small matter of the League Cup final at Hampden in February, in which Beale’s side lost 2-1 to their rivals. Celtic, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their last 24 matches domestically and, at least on Scottish soil, win even when they don’t play particularly well, as they did at Ross County on Saturday.

Mind The Gap

Victory by Rangers on Saturday would reduce the gap in the Premiership table to six points, though effectively seven, given the Hoops’ vastly superior goal differential, with one more Glasgow derby still to play. That’s hardly insignificant. A win by Celtic, though, would put the gap at 12 points (really 13, again given the goal differential), with seven matches to play.

The Hoops would need to drop points in five of those remaining fixtures to cede the title at that point—not impossible, mind you, but you’d hate to see the bookies’ odds on it. Still, ’Gers head into Saturday’s match with reason to hope. They continue to play well under Beale, and arguably should have won that 2-2 draw against Celtic at Ibrox in January. They also dominated for huge stretches of that aforementioned League Cup final.

Meet The New Boss

Notably, the match will be the first for the Ibrox club under newly named chairman John Bennett, who replaced Douglas Park on Tuesday. With a new manager in Beale and a new boss overseeing the club, surely more changes are afoot, which has to have a positive effect on the mood around the place. Further, Celtic may be without key midfielders Reo Hatate and Aaron Mooy (the latter of whom we never thought we’d describe as “key” only a few short months ago).

Nothing is a given in Scottish football. We imagine Hoops gaffer Ange Postecoglou and his players have learned that by now.

Scottish football association

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