Rangers v Celtic: 3 key battles that will decide where Old Firm derby will be won and lost

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Rangers ended their near two-year wait for a derby win over Celtic by running out 3-0 winners at Ibrox back in May.

The first Old Firm derby of the 2023/24 season is upon us, with Celtic and Rangers preparing to square off for what is sure to be another enthralling Scottish Premiership showdown at Ibrox.

The Hoops had previously come out on top in four of the last seven meeting between the two sides, including in the League Cup Final and Scottish Cup semi-final last term. That was until Rangers responded with a thumping 3-0 win over their arch rivals in the final meeting of the season in Govan.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

With Brendan Rodgers’ side holding a narrow advantage at the top of the table during the opening weeks of the campaign, Michael Beale will know his much-changed team can’t afford to concede any points, even at such an early stage.

John Lundstram of Rangers evades Daizen Maeda of CelticJohn Lundstram of Rangers evades Daizen Maeda of Celtic
John Lundstram of Rangers evades Daizen Maeda of Celtic

Goals from Todd Cantwell, John Souttar and Fashion Sakala earned Beale his first derby success at the fifth attempt back in May but with a raft of new players expected to feature on either side, another nail-biting clash is guaranteed as millions of viewers from across the globe tune into Scottish football’s showpiece fixture.

So where will this weekend’s match be won and lost? Here, we identify three important positional battles to keep an eye out for:

Gustaf Lagerbielke vs Cyriel Dessers

Celtic have usually been on the ball from the referee’s first whistle in derby outings, barring their previous trip to Ibrox where they were comphrensively beaten. With first-choice centre-back Cameron Carter-Vicker absent through injury and Maik Nawrocki also sidelined, the pressure will be on new Swedish signing Gustaf Lagerbielke to make his mark in what will only be his third appearances for the Hoops and his first ever Old Firm. The former IF Elfsborg star has looked agressive in the counterpress, quick and comfortable with the ball at his feet so far.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Nigerian international Cyriel Dessers will also make his derby debut and having recieved plenty of stick for his performances in a royal blue shirt since arriving from Italian side Cremonese in the summer, he will be determined to find the net and start proving his worth now that he’s up to full speed in terms of fitness.

Callum McGregor vs Todd Cantwell

On derby day the midfield engine room can often be where the battle is won and lost. Celtic captain Callum McGregor is a veteran of those Old Firm clashes. He might not always grab the headlines for doing most of the dirty work but the Scotland international makes the Hoops tick on his day. Despite not being at his best in recent weeks, McGregor will want to silence his early-season critics with a dominant display.

He’s likely to come up against the highly influentual Todd Cantwell, who has developed into a key figure in Michael Beale’s side. The former Norwich City midfielder has filled a number of different positions so far this term, but it’s either in a No.8 or No.10 role that Beale sees him playing long-term. Has made a strong impact since joining the club in January and is a real driving force, who loves running at opposition defences. McGregor will be tasked with nulifying his threat.

Kyogo Furuhashi vs John Souttar

The Japanese talisman is the darling of the Celtic support and is easy to see why considering he has scored an impressive 56 goals in 87 appearances to date for the Parkhead club. He already netted twice in four starts so far this term and he has been on target in five of his last four matches against Rangers. His excellent movement and ability to exploit any gaps or signs of weakness in the visitors backline is a real weapon and Souttar will need to be at his best.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The experienced ball-playing central defender will shoulder the responsibility of keeping Kyogo quiet, while also looking to carry the ball out from defence where possible. Has displayed an excellent passing range over the years and is growing in stature as part of this Rangers team after getting a solid run of games and a full pre-season under his belt.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.