Barry Ferguson backs Rangers to ‘send Celtic packing’ in bullish Old Firm prediction

The Ibrox hero is feeling optimistic ahead of today’s showdown.

Barry Ferguson. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)

Former Rangers captain Barry Ferguson is backing his old club to land the first blow in this season’s Scottish Premiership title race by beating Celtic on Sunday.

The Gers have endured a difficult buildup to the first Old Firm of the season, travelling all the way to Armenia on Thursday evening to play in the Europa League and seeing their squad depleted by a Covid scare.

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Celtic also suffered a wobble of their own in midweek, losing 2-1 to AZ Alkmaar.

But even taking their potential absences into account, Ferguson believes that Rangers have enough quality to make two defeats in quick succession for the Hoops.

Writing in a column for the Daily Record, he said: “Covid may have arrived at Rangers’ door at the worst possible moment but when Celtic come calling on Sunday I’m convinced they’ll be sent packing.

“Yes, the Ibrox squad has been decimated by the wretched virus this week and yes, performance levels have been nowhere near the standards set last season.

“But Rangers have a glorious chance to prove they are still top dogs.

Steven Gerrard. (Photo by ANDREAS HILLERGREN/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images)

“And even that starting XI that faced Alashkert - minus Allan McGregor, Jon McLaughlin, James Tavernier, Calvin Bassey, Ryan Kent, Kemar Roofe and Fashion Sakala - should be good enough to beat Celtic. No matter how improved the Parkhead side are under Ange Postecoglou.

“The levels will need to rise considerably from Armenia on Thursday night though.

“It was sluggish at times and the ruthlessness with which inferior opposition were dealt with last season was missing.

“Now it’s all systems go for the first derby of the season and there can be no excuses for Rangers.

“A chunk of the squad missing? No excuse. A 5500km flight home two days before kick-off? Again no excuse.”

He added: “Admittedly this is a different Celtic to the side that crumbled last season. They look a real threat going forward and Kyogo Furuhashi has hit the ground running.

“Celtic still look vulnerable at the back though and the best thing Rangers can do is attack them. Go for the throat and hit them with pace.

“They have players who can hurt teams. Kemar Roofe should be back after serving his suspension on Thursday so that adds another dimension. Ryan Kent, we are led to believe, missed the game through injury not COVID so could be back and he was Celtic’s tormentor in chief last year.

“If I was pushed for a prediction I’d say 2-1 Rangers. Loads of goalmouth action, a few goals, missed chances, mistakes.

“It’s going to be like a boxing match, back and forth. And I reckon Rangers have just enough strength to deliver the first blow in the title race.”