Celtic put their ‘Invincibles’ status up for an acid test on Saturday at lunchtime when they go across Glasgow to tackle Rangers at Ibrox.
Brendan Rodgers has not tasted defeat in a domestic collision since he took over at Parkhead, his team unbowed in 45 Scottish Premiership games and treble winners last season.
They have routinely lorded it over their city foes, winning five of six Glasgow derby tussles last season – Rangers spared only by a 90th-minute leveller at Parkhead in a league clash back in March.
In that sequence the Bhoys have outscored their opponents by 16 goals to four. So far this season Celtic have won five of six games played in the Premiership, scoring 16 goals and conceding only three. Rangers meanwhile have won just three of six played, only two of the previous five.
The stats point to an away win, but it would be churlish to boil things down thus. Derby-day in Glasgow always has the potential to chart a course all of its own design.
For Pedro Caixinha and his team, this game is much more than three points. This is their chance to burst the ring of invincibility that surrounds their fiercest rivals. Just six games into the season, and already it seems clear that Rangers will not be challenging Celtic for the title this season.
But this game offers the Light Blues a chance to at least draw some blood for the first time since their return to Scotland’s top table, to land a piercing blow and end the proud unbeaten march of Rodgers’ team. That in itself should be enough to see Rangers fired up to their maximum.
Unfortunately for Caixinha, his side looks short of the quality needed for that task. There was a sizeable gap between these sides last term, evidenced by home and away 5-1 wins for Celtic in the league.
If any side has got stronger this summer, it is Celtic. Most worryingly of all for Rangers will be the recent return of Moussa Dembele to fitness. The French ace was the headline maker in this fixture last season and is apparently ready to be rolled out for his second start of the season (Dembele first goal 7/2).
Celtic were outclassed and outgunned by Paris St-Germain recently, but the stark fact for Rangers going into weekend’s game is that facing the likes of Dembele, Leigh Griffiths, Scott Sinclair and Patrick Roberts is just as daunting for them as the prospect of taming Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani was for Celtic.
In its current guise, this fixture is a meeting of Glasgow’s haves and have-nots. Much as Rangers will be eager to land a jab on Celtic, the attacking quality available to both managers strongly suggest it won’t happen here.
Celtic led at half-time in four of the six meetings last season and that looks the way to seal profit for punters again here. The Hoops are 6/4 to be winning at half-time and full-time and Rodgers’ array of attacking intent should be able to ensure that is the case in Govan.
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