Celtic are set to host Rangers on February 2. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)
The Glasgow rivals were set to clash yesterday but after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to cap attendances to 500, Premiership clubs voted in favour of bringing forward the winter break.
That caused an extensive rescheduling of festive fixtures, with the Parkhead encounter rearranged for Wednesday, February 2.
That will come just 24 hours after Japan host Saudi Arabia and Australian entertain Oman in World Cup qualifiers and depending on Covid travel guidelines, it could leave Hoops manager Ange Postecoglou missing several key players.
It comes after the Australian confirmed he was planning for the game without influential midfielder Tom Rogic and star striker Kyogo Furuhashi.
He revealed both players will almost certainly miss the second Old Firm clash of the season, with new signings Daizen Maeda, Yosuke Ideguchi and Reo Hatate also in line for international call-ups.
Reports in Asia suggest the Japanese government will allow the JFA to bring in players from overseas and that could mean Celtic have the right to apply for the match to be called off.
Postecoglou said: “That has been in our planning for a while. We’ve known that they are going to be away in that period if they get selected.
“I totally understand that whatever fixtures we have in that period they are likely to miss out.
“It’s a World Cup game, so there are no negotiations. We are obliged to release them and we will.”
Rangers, who were against the decision to bring forward the January shutdown, are likely to be without midfielder Joe Aribo, who has been selected by Nigeria to play in the African Cup of Nations.
However, manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst but will have Leon Balogun and Calvin Bassey available for selection after both players dropped out of the Super Eagles squad for the tournament.
SPFL Rule G7 states: “A club shall be entitled to apply to the board for the postponement of any official match where three or more of its players who would otherwise have participated in such match are unavailable through international selection an, following receipt of such an application, the board may postpone and rearrange the relevant official match in accordance with Rule G3.”
Chief Executive Neil Doncaster previously insisted that any further disruption to the fixture calendar could lead to the top-flight season being curtailed once again.
Speaking to STV last month, he said: “We had two slots that we could use pre-split and we’ve used those already by postponing the December 29 and New Year games.
“There’s absolutely no more leeway in the calendar and whatever the situation n the New Year, we simply have to get these games played.
“If we can’t then we are in real danger of being in the same situation that we were two years ago with potential curtailment.”
Supporters of both clubs have voiced their opinion on the matter via fan forum pages:
John no: “As I understand things, we can request the game to be postponed with more than three players away on international duty. However, that request remains upon a decision from the SPFL. Considering that they set the date in the first place with full knowledge of the potential unrest it could cause to us, then this is the real crux of the potential situation arisen.”
cheezeydee: “Rangers wanted it initially as they had three players going off to African cup, but only one is being called up to it now. I’d be up for the game being requested and given just to wind them up even more with the winter break etc. Just hope we go on to win the league to crank up the rage meter.
tigger: “The SPFL have already stated that all available dates for any rearranged fixture have been used up!”
Stupots: “Celtic should just let us know when they fancy it and we’ll turn up on the day. As soon as they’re in good form and have no injuries, Covid or international call-ups. Preferably when Rangers have injuries and/or a Covid outbreak.”
Fothyman: “No chance it is being played with the 500 person restrictions still in place.”
Barrymoped: “Given they have already been told there are no spare midweeks then I think they will be told to do one. It would, however, mean we have Aribo back so even if they did get it (I don’t think they will), it’s not all bad news.”
Withambear: “If there are still crowd restrictions it will get postponed again. The SPFL will use every trick in the book to get their own way.”