- Rangers vs Celtic kicks off at 12:30pm on Sky Sports
80 mins – Rangers 1 Celtic 0
Celtic win a free-kick, Barisic is booked for the foul, McGregor can send the ball into the box. He does just that… but the ball bounces out harmlessly for a goal kick.
78 mins – Rangers 1 Celtic 0
Celtic try to break from Rangers pressure but just can’t do it. Rangers pushing high, squeezing the pitch and keeping them trapped.
It will come as no surprise to anyone that Itten is coming on for Morelos. Gerrard clearly can’t trust him on a yellow card.
75 mins – Rangers 1 Celtic 0
Shane Duffy goes full Shane Duffy and leaves one on Kent with a clear hack. Rangers players get fired up and surround Duffy, it all gets a bit aggro and surprise surprise Morelos and Brown are involved. Morelos gets booked, McGregor too, and Duffy is shown a yellow too.
74 mins – Rangers 1 Celtic 0
But Celtic almost equalise! Edouard flicks on for Elyounoussi, who is – somehow – in a mile of space. Rangers rush to close him down as he lets the ball drop before launching a volley but strikes it over the bar. McGregor would have struggled to save that.
73 mins – Rangers 1 Celtic 0
Brown and Elhamed come on to replace Soro and Christie. I’m not sure how Lennon plans on creating chances to score now. That’s three defensive midfielders, one El Younoussi and a striker who isn’t really a striker.
RANGERS TAKE THE LEAD!
Rangers 1 Celtic 0
Tavernier crosses in to the near post, McGregor goes to head it but the ball comes off his shoulder at the corner of the six yard box. The goalkeeper has no chance, the ball deflects past him and Aribo runs off celebrating. It’s McGregor’s own-goal though.
70 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Barisic takes it…. just wide! Duffy deflects it with a header in the wall.
69 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Celtic can now no longer play their man to man marking system because they literally don’t have the numbers for it. That’s not only a change in shape, but in the defensive part of their tactics. It’ll leave a bit of space occasionally in random parts of the pitch as Rangers work the ball around. Tavernier wins a free-kick on the outside of the box. Barisic lines it up. Could be a shot. Barkas leaving a big side of his goal empty or it.
67 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Elyounoussi is also on for Celtic, with Turnbull and Griffiths off. That’s a straight 4-4-1. Rangers starting to dominate things now.
66 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Things go from bad to worse for Celtic as Shane Duffy is substituted on.
64 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
And Rangers should score from the free-kick. Tavernier curls a great ball into the box, it goes all the way across the area and somehow nobody in a blue shirt is able to turn it in. Celtic survive.
Lennon is about to make some changes. The entire game has swung with that red card.
Bitton is sent off for taking Morelos out! He’s the last man… and Bitton drags him to the floor! It’s a rugby tackle, what on earth is he playing at?!
62 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Kent is staying far more central as Rangers buildup, which allows Kamara to drift wide, which then means Barisic can get into an advanced position once the ball is safe and in control beyond halfway. It’s taken them 60 minutes to work these positions.
59 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Rangers definitely looking to get the ball forward earlier in the move in this half, often going for long balls from the back. It makes sense considering the Celtic high line but it’s still Celtic who are creating the chances! Edouard has a shot at goal blocked inside the area.
56 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Tavernier skips past a couple of challenges to get Rangers up the right, more blue shirts get forward, Morelos turns in the box and has a shot blocked by Ajer, who pumps his fists after making that tackle. Seems to mean a lot to him, that. Quite Scott Brown-esque.
53 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Rangers better at winning the ball back and moving it on early so far. Aribo loses possession with a poor pass inside to a clearly marked teammate but there are players ready to win it back. Ally McCoist is giving a scathing critique of Morelos’ game and he’s dead right. The boy has been poor all season but is losing easy battles today.
51 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Celtic have started as they did the first half, pressing aggressively and forcing mistakes from Rangers. As expected the Rangers full-backs appear to be getting higher up the pitch early on. Hagi gets on the ball moves into a central position and takes a shot from distance. That’s exactly what Gerrard will have wanted, except for the shot going wide.
48 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
The drawing on the left is what happened in the first half, as a result of Celtic’s aggressive strategy but Rangers being a little too meek and allowing it to happen. In the second I expect something more like the drawing on the right. Kent and Hagi have to push higher and move into the half spaces, allowing the full-backs to go wide. If the wide forwards are wide, the full-backs can’t overlap and that has been a key feature of Rangers tactically this season.
Hagi comes on for Roofe. That makes sense for me. He’ll definitely move into more central areas and allow Tavernier to get forward.
What needs to change
As much as Celtic have won the tactical battle so far, Rangers have been poor individually. I also think that Rangers aren’t used to being pressed so high and aggressively in the Premiership and it means buildup play is being disrupted. Rangers usually build patiently from the back and then work the ball around the opposition half, but because the press is working so well, they’re looking for Kent and Roofe earlier than they’d want to, which means when those two get the ball the only thing they can really do is run with the ball. The passing lanes aren’t open because Rangers players are in the wrong positions – Celtic’s aggressive press has caused that.
So, in the second half, I’d expect Tavernier and Barisic to push way higher up the pitch and Rangers to be more aggressive. That will allow Kent and Roofe to play in the half spaces which will better link them with Morelos.
Expect much better things from Rangers in the second half. Gerrard could even make substitutions in an effort to shake this up.
45 mins+1 – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Bitton heads a corner wide from six yards out. Celtic have dominated possession, squeezed the space, tactically outplayed their opponents, and had all the shots on goal… but it’s still 0-0. Gerrard will be pleased with the clean sheet but too many of his players haven’t turned up.
45 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Lennon looks fairly stressed out on the bench at the moment. Christie has booted a hopeful shot from miles out over the bar.
43 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
What a tackle by Laxalt. McGregor boots the ball up field, it’s headed on and Morelos is in behind. Laxalt has a slight advantage in the chase and slides in to take the ball away and kill the danger.
41 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Kent hasn’t been able to shield the ball well at all and Rangers are losing possession down the left flank too often. In fact, I’d say he’s been really bad at it, losing almost every single battle he’s been involved so far, either with a loose bit of control or not being strong enough.
40 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Tavernier starting to really push high up the pitch now – something Rangers have lacked today. Celtic are either retreating slightly or Rangers are gaining territory. The big problem for Rangers though is that wherever they pass the ball, the receiving player as at least one Celtic man touch tight and they’re not able to keep the ball.
Davis hacks down Ajer as he carries the ball out from the back and is booked. That looked a sore one, a lot of weight put on Ajer’s ankle.
37 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Rangers enjoying a bit of possession but Celtic are pressing them everywhere the ball goes and that is resulting in play going backwards. Turnbull then wins the ball back in the final third, slips in Griffiths with a smart reverse pass, and Griffiths fires narrowly wide. Goldson did just enough to show him off balance.
35 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Griffiths is lining up a free-kick from 25/30 yards out. Surely not.
Not. He hits the wall and then Morelos wins a foul.
32 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Goldson plays a powerful pass back to McGregor who hits it first time and perfectly finds a Rangers player out on the left wing. It’s a brilliant pass, especially for a goalkeper on his weaker foot. McGregor seems to be the only Rangers player today who has properly turned up.
30 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Rangers now having their wide forwards track all the way back to support in the defensive third so that they have a 3 v 2 advantage on the wings. That has stopped Frimpong and Laxalt from getting so far forward and meant Celtic are having to pass around more without penetrating.
28 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Soro has given away a few free-kicks in the last few minutes and be lucky to avoid being booked for his next. Morelos and Roofe have both complained to the referee about it.
26 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Rangers struggling to keep the ball beyond half way at the moment. They’re playing out from the back but Celtic are pressing aggressively in the opposite half and then doubling up at half way.
23 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
WHAT A SAVE. Wow. Griffiths finds the space to launch the ball into the top corner from the edge of the area and McGregor reacts instantly, leaping to his side to get a fingertip or two the ball and turn it onto the post. That is outstanding.
22 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Celtic have had 60 per cent of possession so far but the more interesting statistic for me at this stage is pass success. Rangers are at 68 per cent, Celtic 86 per cent – the away team are in control, calm and aggressive at the right times, Rangers rushing and being pressed out of it.
21 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Turnbull whips the corner to the near post and Davis heads it… backwards across his own box! That’s almost an own goal. Rangers break from the second corner, Kent runs into space after a clever pass from Roofe, then crosses, then Celtic block Aribo from shooting inside the area. Rangers keep the ball and work it around the area… out wide, low into the box and MORELOS SHOOTS! Hits a defender’s leg and the ball rolls back to Celtic.
18 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Great run from Kent, who takes the ball from near his own box to the final third… then passes to Aribo who loses out to Soro. Celtic winning the ball seconds after losing it here, Rangers just aren’t in the game yet.
Frimpong tricks his way into the box, Christie and McGregor support, Laxalt crosses in and it’s a corner.
16 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Rangers are blocking at halfway rather than pressing high, almost as if their plan here is to draw Celtic out then hit them on the break.
14 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Celtic doubling up on Rangers whenever they pass the ball out from the back. Frimpong and Christie team up to stop Kent turning them, then Aribo and Kamara are surrounded in midfield until they win a free0kick.
13 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Rangers are being dominated at the moment and can’t really get hold of the ball. Celtic finding space all over the final third to keep the ball moving, and McGregor has just smashed a low shot at goal from distance which had the Rangers McGregor beaten. Luckily for him the ball flies wide of the near post.
11 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Frimpong wastes a big chance to cross the ball in, not wrapping his foot around the ball and lifting it into McGregor’s gloves. The Celtic full-backs are getting forward exactly as much as they need to for this system to work. Turnbull pressing as the central forward, flanked by Griffiths and Edouard in something like a 4-3-3 out of possession.
9 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
This is such an attacking start from Celtic, really didn’t expect it. They’re not giving Rangers any time on the ball – it’s the kind of game that Ryan Jack would be useful in to take control of the tempo.
Kent takes on Laxalt but loses and Celtic try to break, Kamara follows it in and fouls Bitton by stretching for the ball after a heavy touch.
7 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
This is a great start from Celtic and a really nervy one from Rangers. A long ball forward is badly dealt with by Balogun, Turnbull picks it up and Celtic have a three v three by the box! He passes inside to Christie, who – get this – shoots immediately and forces the save from McGregor. Turnbull offside.
5 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Frimpong is knocked to the floor by Morelos, who stands on his foot/ankle with that late challenge. He should be booked for that but the referee’s let it go this time… the next will be a yellow. It’s taken him five minutes to do something stupid.
3 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
Celtic getting a lot of players forward early on but Rangers block the space and win the ball back. McGregor takes Celtic up the pitch with a clever run, drifts past one, finds Edouard in space on the left and he’s in! EDOUARD SHOOOOTS but it’s saved by McGregord, the ball bounces loose to McGregor, who shoots but is blocked, and then Edouard is one v one from two yards and again it’s saved! Great goalkeeping by McGregor, who is rescued by the offside flag.
1 mins – Rangers 0 Celtic 0
The game has begun! Celtic start, pass the ball back, and Bitton launches a long ball.
How the teams look
A wee reminder, scribbled by me:
I really worry for Celtic that Rangers have control of both the wide areas and the centre of the pitch today. Very interested to see how the game unfolds tactically.
Neil Lennon on leaving Scott Brown out
[Soro’s] been playing great but it’s always a difficult decision. We just felt with the way the team’s been functioning it was hard to leave Ismaila out.
Christopher Jullien very injured
Neil Lennon has just confirmed that Christopher Jullien will be injured for about three to four months, a real shame considering he’d only just returned to action recently. That’ll surely mean they go hunting for a centre-back in the January window. Declan Gallagher, anyone?
I‘m a big David Turnbull fan. He was absolutely superb at Motherwell a season ago (was it last season? Feels like years already!) and one of the best youngsters I’ve seen in a long time. Sometimes you can just tell a player has ‘it’ and Turnbull is one of those. Quite why it took so long for Lennon to get him in the team is something only the manager knows but the most obvious reason for keeping him on the bench was getting an XI that had Christie, Edouard and Rogic, all players who like to drop into the 10 space.
Turnbull has that magic little ability to look entirely in control of time and space around him when on the ball, and though that sounds like overly hyperbolic praise, it’s something you’ll notice whenever he has the ball in the final third. Defenders slide in, dive in, jump in his way and Turnbull just drifts past them as though already aware of what they’ll do. He’s a lot more mobile than Rogic and doesn’t shoot every time he’s within 30 yards of the goal like Christie.
The plan with this 4-4-2 diamond shape Celtic are playing is that Christie supports on the right, Turnbull attacks through the middle, and Edouard drifts out into the left channel to help Laxalt, allowing him to arrive in space while the play progresses on the other side.
Steven Gerrard pre-match
“We need to be the best version of ourselves, a lot of good teams have come here and posed us problems but we’ve all performed well individually and collectively. I’m comfortable we’ll get what we want.”
Wreaths outside Ibrox
Sky Sports have just shown a beautiful wee video on the Ibrox disaster talking to witnesses, those who escaped and, tragically, family members of those who didn’t. Puts things in perspective. It’s just a game, after all.
Possible clever tactical choice
The one thing that may really work for Celtic today is if Christie and McGregor are able to double up with Laxalt and Frimpong in those wide areas. That would cause problems in attack but will leave the middle of the pitch vulnerable – and that’s where all the Rangers players are.
The wide areas are absolutely key today
Both teams are going to rely heavily on their full-backs getting forward today – the shapes of both teams are very narrow and without those runs, width will be restricted. Barisic and Tavernier are the two the best full-backs in the country and regularly spend most of games in the opposition half, and I think the reason Laxalt is in today is specifically to give Celtic attacking width on the left.
Rangers’ 4-3-2-1 ends up looking a lot like this below on the left:
While Celtic’s 4-4-2 diamond depends on Christie and McGregor moving into channels, but McGregor isn’t that sort of player so might not do it the way the system depends. Christie will drift out to the right wing, Turnbull is the 10, Soro will sit in front of the centre-backs. Rangers are a lot more balanced.
I’m not entirely convinced Lennon has chosen the right setup for this game. Time will tell!
Here is how the teams lineup. Rangers in a 4-3-2-1 as everyone will have expected:
And Celtic have a back four. It might be a midfield diamond with really advanced full-backs.
The Glasgow Derby
Hello there and welcome to our live coverage of Rangers vs Celtic, a traditionally friendly affair played at a relaxing tempo. Joking aside, the absence of fans from Ibrox might have an impact on how this game is played, reducing the number of ‘let him know you’re there’ tackles and the frantic pace we often see in this matches, but there is so much riding on the result that it’ll most likely be minimal.
This game will tell us a lot. Are Rangers genuinely that much better than Celtic? Or have the champions just been going through a really bad few weeks? Can Neil Lennon find a way to cause Steven Gerrard’s side problems, especially when nobody seems sure what the best Celtic XI is and Rangers never concede goals? Defence has been their massive strong point this season, with an organised, settled back line only conceding five goals in 21 matches. It’s an incredibly impressive record. This is what Gerrard has had to say about today’s match:
“I’d be very happy with the three points but I would remain balanced and humble with my feet on the ground. It’s January, there are many tough challenges ahead and hurdles we need to get over, so whatever the result is we will move forward in the best possible way. We obviously want to do all we can to try and take this opportunity.
“We want to stretch our lead, of course we do, but if we manage to do that then certainly no one will be getting carried away.
“I think if you are not looking forward to this fixture as a player, with how the season has gone so far, then you have got a major, major problem. Myself, the staff, the players, as soon as St Mirren was done, it was straight onto the focus on Celtic.
“It is a fantastic opportunity for us to go and put on a performance and try and stretch our lead. That is where we are at and we want to try and grab that with both hands.
“If you have got one per cent of you that is not looking forward to this fixture, you are at the wrong football club and you are working under the wrong manager. We are preparing ourselves for a tough game, a big challenge, we are playing against a good team.”
Kick off is at 12:30, you can watch the game live on Sky Sports, and you can read live updates and analysis throughout here in this blog.