THE build-up to any derby is naturally going to generate widespread interest but when the two sides have not locked horns in almost three years, it takes on added significance.
This weekend, Celtic and Rangers lock horns for the first time since April 2012 with a place in March’s Scottish League Cup Final up for grabs.
With the Old Firm rivalry being renewed and the two Glaswegian rivals currently in two different divisions, the intrigue surrounding this semi-final is at fever pitch as Hampden Park will be on Sunday.
Therefore it is no surprise that everyone from Scottish football fans to Kenny Dalglish have been having their say before the players go outside and sort this out once and for all.
It is relatively unusual for supporters to get the mind games rolling but that’s exactly what the Celtic fans have been doing with suggestions that it should be referred to as a Glasgow rather than Old Firm derby in reference to Rangers re-launching as a “new company”.
Interesting stuff. Talk about banging the drum…
Here are some of those opinions and then you can decide for yourself:
Celtic striker Anthony Stokes (speaking to the Scotsman):
“It is a one-off game and I think the form book goes out the window, especially when it is a rivalry of this magnitude, especially with us not playing them for so long.
“For me it has always been the biggest game.
“It is great to play in Europe but with the rivalry and what it brings to the city it is a special occasion and something I am really looking forward to.
“This could arguably be the biggest because because of the time that has passed since we last played them.”
Former Rangers manager Walter Smith (speaking to the Daily Record):
“You go to England and there is Everton v Liverpool, Manchester United v Manchester City, I have experienced the two of them. The Old Firm game has an edge to it that is missing in these matches.
“But I can’t say that I miss them. On the other hand I say they are necessary. They are necessary for everyone else except maybe the two managers.
“Scottish football needs it; needs a Rangers v Celtic game. The profile that this game will achieve over Europe, and even the world, will be massive and it gets that profile focused onto Scottish football again, which we are struggling to achieve at European level at present.”
Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon (speaking to the Scottish Daily Mail):
“Is it a 50-50 game? They probably always are 50/50 games, regardless of who’s playing for the two sides.
“Rangers still have enough quality in their team to win a game so we’ll be looking at ourselves and our preparation.
“The form book goes out the window in Celtic-Rangers matches. There are two sides with 11 men desperate to win the game. And when you have that, anything can happen.”
Former Rangers manager Alex McLeish (speaking to STV Sport):
“Normally Celtic should win because of the difference in quality but it is a cup tie and an Old Firm game. Rangers will probably raise their game big time.
“I think the important players next week are going to be the experienced Rangers players. That could be key.
“We saw big FA Cup shocks at the weekend and there’s no reason why Rangers can’t do that.”
Former Celtic manager Neil Lennon (speaking to STV):
“Yeah I mean I know there’s a debate that it is not Rangers, it’s a newco, this that and the other. Listen when it comes to Sunday and the stadium is packed, people will know what it is all about.
“Regardless of the position in the league, regardless of what has gone on in the last three or four years, I think everyone from a fan’s point of view will be looking forward to the game. Now Rangers fans might not but that’s just the nature of the beast.
“Anything can happen in a derby and if Celtic play as well as they can then they should be comfortable winners.”
Former Celtic striker and manager Kenny Dalglish (speaking to the Scotsman):
“It’s a massive game, everybody knows what it stands for. Even if it’s your first venture into one, you soon realise what it means. Everybody who has played football knows the importance of a derby match, and the one you’re involved in is the most important.
“If you are born in Glasgow, you know the magnitude of the game and what it means to win it. That tells you it doesn’t matter what state either club is in, or how long it’s been since they played each other. So that feeling will not be diluted or devalued on Sunday. Both sets of fans have really missed the Old Firm games.”
Rangers caretaker manager Kenny McDowall (speaking to the Scotsman):
“There is probably as big a gap between the teams as there has ever been. Celtic are favourites for it and rightly so.
“I think it will be a fantastic occasion. It has been three years and it has finally arrived. It will be massive because it has been so long, but this is what you are in the game for.
“It is a cup game and we know anything can happen. You need a bit of luck on the day, but you need to play well on the day as well.”
He added when talking to BBC Scotland: “I think Scottish football needs this fixture. Hopefully it will help Scotland get back to better things in the future.”
Celtic manager Ronny Deila (speaking to BBC Scotland):
“It’s a first meeting with Rangers for me. It’s exciting. It’s going to be loud and it’s going to be a very good day.
“There is a lot of emotion. It means a lot to people, the whole city. Football needs derbies like that. A lot goes into the game, it’s not just going to the final.
“You can feel the atmosphere in the city. Right now it feels like the most important thing in the world.”
Rangers captain Lee McCulloch (speaking to BBC Scotland):
“Obviously Celtic for this one are resounding favourites, so we are just looking to give a good account of ourselves and hopefully get through to the final.
“Form goes out of the window as this is a one-off.
“It’s up to us to try to prove people wrong about their opinion and persona of where we’re at just now and show we have got character in the dressing-room and that we have got leaders that can lead a dressing-room to an Old Firm victory.”
Celtic captain Scott Brown (speaking to BBC Scotland):
“It is good for Scottish football because everyone all over the world will be watching and hopefully we can put on a show for them. Do we miss Rangers? Yes, on occasions like this.
“It is good to have the hype of the game and the fans having the banter between one another. It is going to be a terrific occasion and everyone’s counting down the days now. It will be exciting.
“Every Celtic-Rangers game, everyone relishes, especially on the big occasions going out in front of 50,000 at Hampden. The atmosphere as soon as you walk out on to that pitch, hairs stand up on the back of your neck.”
Sky Sports pundit and former Rangers defender Neil McCann (speaking to Daily Mail):
“Rangers are in real trouble at the moment. The sides are worlds apart in terms of the performances on the pitch. It could be really tough for Rangers.
“You just want to see Rangers back for the good of Scottish football. We knew this game would come around. We would have liked to see it in the top league but it’s the cup and one team are going in very strong and another who are a lot weaker.
“But I still believe Rangers have guys in that squad who, if they get things right tactically, there is a chance an upset could happen.”
Celtic striker John Guidetti (speaking to BBC Scotland):
“I fancy three [against Rangers at Hampden Park]. That is what I did against Ajax when I was with Feyenoord and that’s the aim this time.
“Big games are what I love the most.”
The Supporters View: