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A Celtic win will sicken Steven Gerrard and Rangers wont recover psychologically – Chris Sutton – Daily Record

A Celtic win will sicken Steven Gerrard and Rangers wont recover psychologically – Chris Sutton – Daily Record

Celtic boss Neil Lennon says today’s massive game won’t define the season.

I’m sorry to disagree with my old teammate, but it definitely could.

If Rangers lose it, they won’t recover. Psychologically, it would be a huge blow for Steven Gerrard’s team.

The build-up to this game has put a fresh dynamic into the fixture.

It seemed there was barely a day that went past at one stage over the past fortnight when Celtic were not having a player ruled out of the game with the Covid-19 pandemic being the principal culprit.

Celtic are not going to be anywhere near full-strength. They have lost important players such as Nir Bitton and Ryan Christie to the virus.

Odsonne Edouard is not going to be himself having had 10 days of self isolation and James Forrest is already ruled out with an ankle fracture.

Albian Ajeti won’t be fully fit either having been out with a hamstring issue.

Rangers have gone from fancying their chances to being tagged as the favourites to win due to these circumstances.

Let’s be honest, there was already a feeling that Gerrard’s team were in a better place with the rhythm of their play before the international break.

Even though Celtic have dropped less points, their play has been bitty. It’s not been fluent.

Chuck the absentees into the mix and Rangers will never have a better chance of winning the first Old Firm game of the season for the first time in a long time.

(Image: Alan Harvey/SNS Group)

However, there’s a flip side. With odds stacking up in their favour, so does the expectation.

If they lose in Glasgow’s East End, it’ll be a brutal setback, whereas Celtic proved after the last derby game losing it doesn’t knock them too much.

As I said a couple of weeks ago, if I was in the Celtic dressing room right now, I’d be looking at the situation since the start of the season and feeling as though things had turned out alright.

We haven’t got started yet, we are only at 50 per cent of form and, if we win our game in hand, we’d be two points clear at the top of the table. That’s what I’d be thinking. Especially given all of the plaudits which have been dished out to Rangers.

If Celtic go out and win this game at lunchtime, that would, theoretically, put them five points clear when they haven’t really even got out of second gear this season and their rivals have been nearly at their best.

It would be an absolute sickener for the Rangers players and inflict the type of blow which they find tough to recover from.

Team selection and tactics of the game is going to be critical. Given the situation which Celtic have been faced with in an attacking sense, I’d pitch Patryk Klimala into the slot of leading the line.

The Polish striker is raw and he’s not the finished article, but you have to admire his hunger, his attitude and he would not give the Rangers backline a minute’s peace.

I just don’t feel you can go into this game half baked. It doesn’t matter if Edouard or Ajeti are 80 per cent fit, I don’t think 80 per cent is enough.

Leigh Griffiths scored in the last game, but he was blowing afterwards and he was on the pitch just 15 minutes. He doesn’t look ready to start and Mohamed Elyounoussi could even get the nod alongside the Pole.

(Image: SNS Group)

Klimala would run the Rangers defenders and move them around. And he can finish.

Defensively, Celtic are likely to go with Shane Duffy, Christopher Jullien and Kristoffer Ajer. Lennon could go to four at the back with the Norwegian going to right back, but I can’t see it.

Duffy is going to relish a battle against Alfredo Morelos. This type of physical contest is right up his street and it’s going to be a great duel to watch. The Irishman will tinker with the Colombian’s temper and it’ll be fascinating.

Ryan Kent is the real Rangers weapon and he has the ability to take advantage of any spaces which Celtic leave in behind.

That’s where I feel Celtic have to be cute. Normally, they are on the front foot at home. In any domestic game, they are expected to flood forward and push into attack.

However, I believe that would just suit Rangers. Gerrard’s team are good on the counter and have most of their problems when facing sides who are narrow and keep it tight and compact.

There’s not 50,000-odd home fans roaring Celtic forward and they might just sit in a little more than usual. Why would you open yourself up and leave yourself wide open to Rangers’ biggest strengths?

That does not make a lot of sense, especially when you consider that, given everything that has happened in the build-up to the game. Lennon and his team want to win, but a point would not be a disaster for the home team.

What am I expecting to happen? Putting all of the ingredients into the mix, I’m going to sit on the fence. I think it will be a 1-1 draw and that’s a result which I think both teams would settle for if you asked them quietly this morning.

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