Callum McGregor urges Celtic to keep calm amid Old Firm ‘chaos’ at Hampden
Celtic captain Callum McGregor aims to cut through the “chaos” and deliver the game plan they feel can continue their success against Rangers.
The Hoops are unbeaten in five games against their city rivals – four of them this season – ahead of Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final.
Celtic won 4-0 in the opening derby this season but recent encounters have been closer and full of action – Celtic are 7-5 ahead in goal difference in the three meetings in 2023 so far.
Manager Ange Postecoglou felt their 3-2 win over Rangers earlier this month was an error-strewn affair and McGregor knows they will need to ensure they can play their usual football at times amid the frantic nature of the rivalry and the atmosphere created by about 50,000 fans at Hampden.
“That is the challenge,” the midfielder said. “You have got to have a calm head and see the detail behind the game and how you can progress the ball forward into the areas that you want.
“Of course you have all this chaos, all the hype of the fixture and it’s about trying to stay calm within that and implement the game plan we feel can be effective.
“It is about having the personality to stay calm and put your foot on the ball and make some passes and gain control of the game but, as always, it’s easier said than done.”
McGregor will have a major input into ensuring there is a composure about the team, not only in his role as captain but also in his ability to dictate play in the middle of the park. But he knows that preparation is crucial also.
“In terms of the build-up your words can have an effect but I think it’s the combination of the message and the training week and the message that you try and implement through that week that can make a difference,” the 29-year-old said.
“Of course when you go there and feel the environment and it’s hectic, it’s chaotic, it’s then about trying to have enough players that can gather themselves and implement what you have been doing all week in training, because that’s the basis of the work that hopefully can make you successful.
“Of course the experienced ones have a part to play in that on these occasions and we will be doing the best we can to make the performance look the way we want it to look.”
McGregor will take confidence from their recent run against Rangers but that will soon be forgotten when the action starts.
“You can’t take anything for granted in football at all let alone semi-finals where the emotion of the game and the hype is big,” he said.
“You just have to rely on your past experiences and you take some sort of confidence from the fact you have been unbeaten so far.
“But you then have to take the aspects of all those performances and put them together to make sure you maintain that run.
“You don’t get any extra credit for turning up to the game unbeaten. It’s after the game if you manage to come through with a positive result that you can say you have had a good day.”
McGregor also feels they will be ready to adapt if Rangers change their approach in a bid to turn the tide.
“We’re predominantly looking at ourselves in terms of the training week, and what we think we bring to the game as always,” he said.
“That’s number one and then, of course, in the games against Rangers this season they’ve tried probably three or four different systems to try and stop us in each of the games.
“So we’re preparing for each of those scenarios and whatever one we face, then hopefully we’ll have the solution to that come the game and it’s just about trying to find where the space is and how we can beat that press, progress the game forward and try and be dominant in the game which is what we want.”