The Big One: Rangers v Celtic

The big one by Peter Martin

I’m tipping Celtic to win at Ibrox on Sunday because they have better players than Rangers and more talented individuals who can change a game with one piece of magic.

There you have it. An opinion in the first sentence, like it or lump it.

There’s a growing sense of hysteria from some quarters that Rangers have dramatically cut the gap between themselves and the Champions, but the facts suggest some of the work done to reduce the points deficit has been of Celtic’s own doing.

Yes, Celtic deserve tremendous credit for helping Rangers and Aberdeen close the gap at the top of the Premiership.

As the plaudits come thick and fast for what Graeme Murty has achieved at Rangers this season, and rightly so, the facts that surround Celtic’s slump cannot be denied.

The ‘Invincibles’ of last season were 25 points clear of Aberdeen and 33 ahead of Rangers at this same stage with 28 games played. Brendan Rodgers’ side had amassed 80 points, scored 74 goals in the process and conceded only 17.

They would go on to remain undefeated with the treble secured.

After a run of 69 games, the wheels eventually came off and Celtic were thumped by Hearts at Tynecastle this season, to bring to an end an incredible record.

Meanwhile, Rangers during that period had ditched the utterly predictable Mark Warburton, got Graeme Murty in to hold the fort before opting for the car-crash decision of appointing Pedro Caixinha as manager.

The Portuguese coach was bulleted after seven months in charge after the penny finally dropped with the Ibrox board that Pedro didn’t have the best squad in Scotland and he was way out of his depth.

Graeme Murty stepped in once more and steadied the ship, ditched the fat midfielder and a few other misfits, before finally securing the job on a full-time basis just before Christmas 2017.

Since the 25th October of last year, Murty’s record is played 22 games, won 16 with 5 defeats and 1 draw. He’s ducked and dived in the transfer market with a few loans and some homegrown players who completely understand what Rangers are all about.

However, they are still way off making this season a title race in my book. Celtic are miles ahead on and off the park and haven’t even moved through the gears in this campaign. I do not believe they will be caught and I don’t see Rangers laying a glove on them in the league games or the cup, now that European football is off Celtic’s agenda.

This season, Celtic have lost key players to injury, squandered eight points off the back of European fixtures and after 28 games are 16 points worse off than last season at this stage, having drawn seven and lost two games to Hearts and Kilmarnock.

They have only scored 56 goals compared to the 74 of just under a year ago and have had to juggle the pack with Dembele and Griffiths out due to injuries.

These facts are undeniable, but you would think after reading some hacks and pundits gospel that this was a Rangers side capable of sweeping all before them. Having spoken to Graeme Murty, he’s a little more sensible and knows this journey is going to take a little longer.

A win for Rangers will lift the spirits and possibly send the Ibrox legions into orbit, but it won’t alter the awards come May.

Celtic to win 2-1.

I’ve picked a combined Rangers/Celtic XI based on the players available to both managers this season.

Over a year ago, I probably would have picked maybe one Rangers player in that line-up, but such is the sterling job being done by Graeme Murty, four Rangers players have been included in the line-up.

It’s a great pub argument, I wonder if your selection differs greatly from mine?

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