Having heaped further misery on Rangers last weekend, Celtic will be hoping to do the same on Saturday. The Bhoys effectively ended the Gers’ season with the 2-0 win at Hampden but Pedro Caixinha’s men will be hoping to salvage some pride in the last derby of the campaign.
Here are three things to consider ahead of the clash at Ibrox.
Leigh’s time to shine?
With Moussa Dembele ruled out for a number of weeks because of a hamstring injury, Leigh Griffiths will step in for the young Frenchman. Griffiths has experienced a frustrating season with niggling injuries and the form of Dembele keeping him on the bench. But the opportunity has arisen for the ex Hibs man to grab the spotlight.
Whereas Dembele provides more of a physical presence that occupies defences, Griffiths will offer a different type of threat. The Scot will look to get in behind a slow Rangers backline as often as possible and be a constant pest for the length of time he’s on the pitch.
The forward showed that in last weekend’s semi-final triumph when he raced through on goal on a counter attack before being cleaned out by James Tavernier and Scott Sinclair tucked away the resulting penalty. His record against the Blues isn’t the best but he has the perfect chance to put that right.
Does Brendan stick or twist?
Brendan Rodgers called Celtic’s performance at Hampden “outstanding.” He went on to say: “It was a masterclass in terms of possession and getting in between the lines and threatening the goal. I thought our combinations were very good and fundamentally how we pressed the game and got the ball back.”
Celtic gave one of (or the) most complete performance of their season last weekend. For 65 minutes they played with tremendous control, intensity and fluidity as Rangers were left chasing shadows. The scoreline may have read 2-0 but this was still a hammering.
The platform for such a dominant and slick display was set by the midfield. Scott Brown, Callum McGregor and Stuart Armstrong were just far superior than their counterparts technically, tactically, physically and mentally. Once the trio got a grip on the game, there was no coming back for Rangers.
The question for Rodgers is whether he goes with the same midfield that worked so effectively just six days ago. Rangers will be more prepared this time around but the Northern Irishman could bring in Nir Bitton to add more steel or Tom Rogic as a number for more firepower in attack.
Pedro to be more aggressive?
The Portuguese manager got his tactics horribly wrong at Hampden. He set his side up in a narrow 4-4-2 with the idea of closing the spaces Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong were operating in. It clearly failed to rub off on his men who were very passive with and without the ball. And it made life simple for Celtic.
His side will undoubtedly attempt to be more aggressive all around the pitch and start the match on the front foot. With 48,000 fans expecting a positive reaction after a shambolic semi-final performance, Caixinha will have no choice but to take the game to the Hoops.
It’s been a disastrous return to the top flight for Rangers. Despite the optimism back in August they’ll end the season without a trophy. But they might find some satisfaction in ending their rivals unbeaten run if they were to win.
To do that they’ll need a massive improvement from the last meeting between the sides but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Rodgers counter that and lead his Hoops team to another win.