Published: 2022-01-12 By: The Guru
The second Old Firm Derby was due to be played on New Year’s Day but the surge in coronavirus cases sweeping the United Kingdom, driven by the more transmissible Omicron variant forced chiefs at the Scottish Premiership to postpone the match. Putting back one of world football’s biggest games wasn’t easy but with Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP government limiting public outdoor gatherings to 500, the fixture would have been forced behind closed doors. In scenes similar to last season, we were reminded that football is nothing without the supporters, even a game of this magnitude.
Scottish football decided to move its annual winter break forward by a few weeks meaning only the Boxing Day matches were played without crowds in attendance. Sturgeon confirmed on 11th January that large sporting crowds would be allowed back in, just in time for Celtic’s home match against Hibs on Monday 17th January and a full fixture card 24 hours later. The news was welcomed by lovers of the beautiful game north of the border and beyond. It now means the Old Firm Derby will be played on Wednesday 2nd February with a 19:45 GMT kick-off and it will go ahead before a full house.
Football fans are now on high alert and the leading online sportsbooks have scrambled to get their odds back up. This will be the first Old Firm Derby played at Celtic Park with a capacity crowd in attendance since before the pandemic and everyone concerned plans to mark the return in style. Both halves of the Glasgow divide have already set themselves apart from the chasing pack and are desperate to get at each other. The title won’t be won in this match but three points could have a massive say on whether the trophy is draped in red, white and blue or green and gold come the end of the season.
Rangers returned from the winter break with a six points advantage over their city rivals, sitting in pole position. The Gers had already claimed a win over the Bhoys, beating them earlier in the campaign in Govan thanks to a bullet header from defender Filip Helander who has been out injured for most of the season since. There were other slip-ups from the Celts, most of them punished by Rangers. All of them punished since the arrival of GvB.
Giovanni hasn’t been nearly as active in the January transfer window as fans would have expected or hoped. The only piece of business done by the club this winter was to sell back-up defender Nathan Patterson to Premier League side Everton for a Scottish record transfer fee of £12m. That helped balance the books and it’s expected cash will be available to GvB, should he need it. The boss appears happy with what he has.
What the manager and his coaching staff have had the opportunity to do recently is work closely with the players. Having taken the job at short notice and diving right in at the deep end, time on the training pitch has been limited but the winter break would have allowed Gio to firmly get his message across. The players will understand who is boss, how he likes to do things and what is expected of them as Rangers players. Reports from inside the club suggest Gio is similar to Advocaat in the standards set and his demands on discipline.
Things have been quiet across the city but they have been hectic at Celtic Park as Hoops boss Ange Postecoglou has splashed the cash. The board have backed the former Australian national team boss to the hilt, signing several players from the Japanese league. That is seen as a bit of a gamble, especially at this stage of the season, but the fans believe in their gaffer and are confident he will bring them another few gems.
Celtic returned from the winter break sitting second in the league having already lost to Rangers, failing to win six of their first 20 league games. Their form consisted of 14 wins, three defeats and three draws, scoring 42 goals and conceding 12. Will the new signings drive Celtic past Rangers. Only time will tell.
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