Are Rangers Ready For Celtic This Time?


Mark Warburton and Rangers truly suffered the last time they met Old Firm rivals Celtic.

During that miserable afternoon, Rangers looked well off pace and were humbled as the Hoops recorded a resounding 5-1 victory.

Now the two teams meet again this weekend at Hampden to decide which one of them will head to the League Cup final on the twenty-seventh of November.

So should this Gers side feel better about their chances this time around?

Well it should be noted that Celtic have still not lost a domestic match this term. But with that being said they’ve suffered a bit of a hangover effect after Champions League ties.

After Barcelona handed Celtic a 7-0 drubbing, the east-end side of Glasgow failed to beat Caley Thistle up at Inverness and after their 3-3 draw with Man City, Brendan Rodgers’ side only managed a 1-0 win away at Dundee.

But this time the Hoops don’t have to leave Glasgow and they also have an extra day to recover. But if Rangers can somehow manage a similar work-rate as Borussia Monchengladbach showed at Celtic Park on Wednesday then maybe they can get more out of the game. It would also help the Govan side’s chances if Celtic made similar mistakes as they did against the Germans.

When it comes to intensity and work-rate then this Gers side need only cast their minds back to April when they managed to outplay their foes at the same venue.

But this time they’ll be up against a different Celtic side, as Rodgers has managed to get more urgency and energy from his pool of players. I’d still suggest that no Scottish side have given them a sterner on the field test as Rangers did on that semi-final win in May.

Celtic captainScott Brown expects a sterner test, although he’s quick to point out Celtic’s threats:

“It’s going to be a lot harder game, but we’ve got that pace and quality and we have been scoring goals.”

Warburton will be buoyed by his teams return to winning ways this month, both coming with two clean-sheets.

Those wins haven’t made the question marks over the defence disappear. They still don’t seem to have a settled partnership in the central defensive positions and they still look slow and vulnerable in that area. I would get the feeling that Moussa Dembele is still feeling confident about playing this Gers team.

If Joey Barton had a negative influence on those around him, then he’s no longer there to hamper things in the engine room. The midfield certainly need to be more competitive in the engine room this weekend.

Veteran midfielder Niko Kranjcar has improved as his fitness gets better. His touch can be classy and he obviously has a good eye for a pass. But I still doubt he’s ready to provide a full shift, especially in a battle against Celtic’s midfield. So it will be interesting to see if he starts or comes on from the bench.

But even if Rangers are better and more accomplished than they were last month at Parkhead, that still might not be enough to put Celtic to the sword. It might just make the score more respectable.

Rangers don’t just have defensive issues coming into this game, they also struggle to kill games off.

Against Aberdeen, despite having the greater amount of possession and creating more chances, the Light Blues would leave Pittodrie in defeat. That was the worst case scenario but it has happened a few times this season, with the Ibrox side failing to beat Kilmarnock, Hamilton Accies and Ross County already this year.

So looking at it Celtic might still be too strong for Rangers this Sunday.

Although Old Firm clashes can often be the ultimate games to bring managers back down to earth and if they can give Brendan Rodgers his first bloody nose in Scotland, then others might see a weakness there to be exploited.

But it’s extremely important that Mark Warburton’s side can at least make a game of it.

Another poor performance or a heavy defeat could see more Gers fans question why the club has been in decline since April and whether or not Warburton is the man to guide them to the top again.

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