RANGERS AND CELTIC FC SEASON PREVIEWS: WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE OLD-FIRM DERBY RIVALS THIS UPCOMING SEASON?
The traditional and vicious rivalry between Celtic and Rangers in Glasgow is arguably the epitome of intensified football rivalries. Over the past 130 years, Scottish football has been defined by the profound animosity held by both clubs for one another.
The Old Firm derby, often regarded as perhaps the most violent and unwaveringly fierce football encounter, is distinguished by the longstanding Catholic-Protestant divide that runs through Glasgow and has molded the essence of this rivalry. And, unlike other rivalries in football, these matches have more at stake than just three points. It’s all about pride, about bragging rights.
Now, with yet another Scottish Premiership season all set to kick off this week, Steven Gerrard’s Rangers have been on a rampage while Celtic FC hopes for a new sunrise under their new manager, Ange Postecoglou.
FootTheBall examines what can be expected from the two rivals clubs in the upcoming season.
INVINCIBLE LAST SEASON
Rangers’ Premiership season, which began with a win in Aberdeen, ended with a thrashing of the very same opponents and the cementing of a place in the history books. An invincible season, with 38 matches unbeaten (32 W, 6D), Steven Gerrard and his managerial skills hushed all the naysayers.
32 wins. 6 draws. 𝟎 𝐃𝐄𝐅𝐄𝐀𝐓𝐒.
Steven Gerrard wins his first trophy as a manager as Rangers complete the invincible season 🏆 pic.twitter.com/fyEZPi2f5u
— CBS Sports Golazo (@CBSSportsGolazo) May 15, 2021
Rangers netted 92 league goals, the highest in Europe while surrendering 13, and their 102 points placed them 25 points ahead of Celtic. It was pointing out the obvious that Rangers were by far the best team in Scotland last campaign, owing to a high level of consistency that was nowhere to be seen throughout Gerrard’s previous two tenures.
This was also the first time Rangers won the Scottish Premiership since the 2010-11 campaign. Gerrard upended a formidable Celtic team that had previously won the last nine titles.
Gerrard’s brilliance and accomplishment last campaign was established on a solid defensive framework. While Scott Arfield, Ryan Kent, Alfredo Morelos, and Kemar Roofe all had excellent seasons upfront, Rangers’ season was highlighted by the contributions of their defensive players. Rangers’ right-back James Tavernier shone the most, with 19 goal contributions (12 G, 7 A), demonstrating great offensive prowess combined with unraveled defensive tenacity.
HEADING TOWARDS THE NEW SEASON WITH A ROAR
Many doubters still argue that the Rangers were a one-season wonder, but that does not appear to be the case as the new season looms. For years, Rangers’ supporters all around the globe have longed to watch their club take on Real Madrid, and their long-held desire was fulfilled on a gloriously beautiful summer evening.
FULL-TIME: Rangers 2-1 Real Madrid
Fashion Jr & Cedric Itten with the goals at Ibrox.
An impressive team performance in our final pre-season match. pic.twitter.com/bGRWDtJWvs
— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) July 25, 2021
Moreover, their desire to see their club play against Los Blancos received a splash of additional colors as Rangers celebrated their 150th anniversary with a 2-1 victory over the Spanish giants. They finished their pre-season on a high note, coming from behind to defeat Carlo Ancelotti’s team. And, without a doubt, this victory was not a fluke, as Gerrard’s men dominated the game from start to finish.
Rangers vs Real Madrid yesterday:
Shots – 21 v 5
Shots on target – 8 v 1
Goals – 2 v 1
Rangers turned up and DOMINATED 😍 pic.twitter.com/S2wGFEdivr
— SPORTbible (@sportbible) July 26, 2021
Gerrard’s “Invincibles” do not appear to have lost their stride. They impressed everyone with their outstanding brand of football last season, an upgraded version of which was noticeable against Real Madrid.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR RANGERS?
Rangers commence their Scottish Premiership crown defense against Livingston on Saturday, and Steven Gerrard will be eager to build on his squad’s remarkable performance last season.
What will Steven Gerrard do in the upcoming season? Rangers may be missing some assets or need more time to compete in the Champions League alongside major clubs, but Gerrard’s next steps are always intriguing and exciting.
The Englishman is not someone to revel in past glory for too long. He will not say: I have found the recipe for success, there is no need to change anything. No what-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it mentality for him. He knows football is ever-evolving and opponents always end up finding solutions to everything.
Many managers strained their brains for a key to breaking down Rangers but didn’t quite get it; perhaps next time. However, as it was proven last season, Gerrard is one of the most unpredictable coaches and it will take a lot to outwit him.
Things could change swiftly in football, but Rangers are well-positioned to control in Scottish League for the foreseeable future. Even if some crucial players depart, the manager has the resources to compensate.
NEW MANAGER IN AFTER DISMAL SEASON
Celtic had a disappointing last season as their 10-in-a-row dream came to an abrupt end. Celtic, like Rangers, attained comparable heights of supremacy under Brendan Rodgers not long ago. The Hoops’ Quadruple Treble remains one of the finest performances of any Scottish club in recent times, as does their record 106 points in 2016/17, but the drop-off last season was quite severe.
The Hoops appeared to be a shadow of their former selves, finishing 25 points behind eventual winners Rangers and exhibiting erratic performances and consistent defensive lapses.
🤯 Rangers finished the 2020/21 league campaign with a greater goal difference (+79) than second place Celtic amassed points (77) pic.twitter.com/mGVP93r8cI
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) May 16, 2021
Following a string of disappointing performances, Neil Lennon resigned as manager in February. Since then, Celtic have been without a permanent manager. Eddie Howe, former Bournemouth manager, was the top prospect, and most likely the only candidate, but negotiations with him could not reach a conclusion.
After months of looking for a suitable manager, Celtic recruited Ange Postecoglou, one of the most decorated Australian managers. Ange won the Asian Cup as Head Coach of the Australian National Team in 2015, the first time the country had ever won the title. He also managed the Australian national team in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and guided Australia to qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
In their final friendly match against West Ham United, Celtic got annihilated, as they lost 6-2 to the Hammers. This clearly illustrates that Celtic are in a bad spot heading into the new season.
Celtic's 6-2 friendly defeat by West Ham made "no difference" to manager Ange Postecoglou's confidence.
Are you worried Celtic fans? #bbcfootball
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) July 25, 2021
Although there have been several encouraging indications for Celtic throughout Ange Postecoglou’s tenure as manager, it is obvious that the club will need to strengthen the team in a variety of positions if they are to contend for the Premiership this upcoming season.
Their defense is still a significant concern. The team has already added Carl Starfelt and Osaze Urhoghide this offseason, but further reinforcements at the back are required. They may need to recruit full-backs, a goalkeeper, and possibly another center-back to strengthen their squad and stand a chance against Rangers’ lethal offense.
The team clearly needs to recruit players in a variety of positions, but patience is required. It is difficult to do these tasks speedily, especially in the present financial climate. Nevertheless, they have already secured several significant recruitments. Liel Abada already appears to be a striker who will be a necessary piece for this team for many years to follow. Players like Kyogo Furuhashi and Carl Starfelt are yet to break into the first-team equation, but there are great hopes for them as well.
HOW CAN CELTIC COMPETE WITH RANGERS?
The distance Celtic must now close with Rangers is as enormous as the one Rangers had to bridge only a few years ago. While Gerrard has obviously improved his squad, Celtic’s decline has been dramatic and hence, they have a lot of work going forward.
Celtic must begin a complete rebuilding process this summer. With captain Scott Brown taking his talents to Aberdeen and Kristoffer Ajer joining Brentford in the Premier League, the Hoops will be without their dependable backbones going forward. Odsonne Edouard, their leading scorer last season, is also expected to leave Celtic Park in the coming weeks.
Rodgers was given loads of money to construct his Celtic squad, and Postecoglou would need a comparable amount, especially after a player like Ajer was sold and Edouard might be sold. There isn’t a single part of the Celtic team that isn’t in need of mending. Goalkeepers, center-backs, full-backs, central midfielders, and forwards are all required. The recruitment process is important, everything else will be built on that
It required Gerrard three years to transform his team into the dubbed “Invincibles.” Ange Postecoglou may face a similar timetable to turn around a team that has become smug in its dominance over the years. At the summit of Scottish football, a fresh new standard has been forged and hence, Gerrard’s Rangers will be difficult to catch.