THERE have been many blockbuster occasions and classic showdowns which have defined the Old Firm derby since it was first contested in May 1888.
From SPL title deciders to Scottish Cup finals, rarely does a meeting of Celtic and Rangers have little or nothing riding on it.
This – the first in almost three years – is no different with a place in the Scottish League Cup final against either Aberdeen or Dundee United the prize for the winners.
With the current contrasting states of the sides, Celtic are the clear favourites in many eyes but Rangers often raise their game on big occasions so predicting an outcome could be perilous.
As they prepare for their 400th clash, here are the past five encounters between the Glaswegian rivals as well as some of the most memorable meetings down the years…
LAST FIVE MEETINGS:
CELTIC 3-0 RANGERS (Scottish Premier League)
29 April 2012
The last meeting certainly placed what was to come in stark perspective. Celtic were heading towards their first title under Neil Lennon with Rangers down in the doldrums and in financial turmoil having just been docked 10 points for entering administration.
The Hoops fans even taunted their counterparts with RIP signs and chants throughout a contest which had the feeling of the end of an era.
The Parkhead hosts strolled to a comprehensive victory – which extended the gap between the sides to a gigantic 21 points with three games of the 2011/12 season remaining – as Charlie Mulgrew, Kris Commons and Gary Hooper got on the scoresheet.
RANGERS 3-2 CELTIC (Scottish Premier League)
25 March 2012
Celtic were aiming to achieve something that had occurred only a handful of times before when they arrived at Ibrox – sealing the title at the home of their arch nemesis.
But the incentive served to spur the troubled Light Blues on in a thrilling contest that saw five goals and three red cards – four if you include Neil Lennon’s ordering the stands at half-time – which even by Old Firm standards is quite something.
A first league defeat in 21 games for the Hoops meant the delaying of the inevitable as the title celebrations were put on hold for another week while Rangers gave their fans a small reason to cheer while avoiding such ignimony.
CELTIC 1-0 RANGERS (Scottish Premier League)
28 December 2011
In the context of the season, this was regarded as a significant turning point when the title race swung in Celtic’s favour for the first time.
Joe Ledley’s second-half header was enough to leapfrog the Hoops above Rangers to the SPL summit following a ninth straight win – ensuring they had clawed back a 15-point deficit in less than two months.
Ally McCoist – on his first visit to Celtic Park in the Gers dugout – had seen his side condemned to back-to-back defeats on a blustery evening in which few clear-cut chances were carved out.
RANGERS 4-2 CELTIC (Scottish Premier League)
18 September 2011
Ally McCoist’s first Old Firm derby as Rangers manager was certainly one to remember and could not have gone much better – but not without a few scares along the way.
The result reflected the early-season optimistic that was rife around Ibrox as they fought back from falling behind courtesy of an Allan McGregor mistake to take the spoils with their frightful front-three of Steven Naismith, Nikica Jelavic and Kyle Lafferty contributing in a six-goal thriller.
In doing so, the Gers went four points clear and maintained their unbeaten start to the season. It was an afternoon to forget for Celtic, who had Charlie Mulgrew sent off for two yellow cards.
RANGERS 0-0 CELTIC (Scottish Premier League)
24 April 2011
It might have been goalless at Ibrox but the sixth and final derby of the 2010/11 campaign made for compelling viewing.
And Walter Smith – in his final Old Firm in the Gers hotseat – was indebted to goalkeeper McGregor for a stunning penalty save from Georgios Samaras with seven minutes left.
Despite missing out on all three points, the outcome suited Celtic better and left Neil Lennon’s men needing to win their last five matches to seal the title. A simple scenario but it didn’t quite go according to plan…
MOST MEMORABLE MEETINGS:
CELTIC 1-0 RANGERS (Scottish Cup Fifth Round Replay)
2 March 2011
Tempestuous, feisty, difficult for the referee, three red cards, managerial combustion and precious little football played – if ever there was a game that summed up the Old Firm’s heated rivalry this was it.
First things first, Celtic right-back Mark Wilson scored his fourth goal in six games to send the Hoops through to a quarter-final against Inverness and keep his side’s treble hopes alive – whilst dashing Rangers’ in the process.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg on a night where passion and aggression spilled over with Gers ending the game with eight men – pantomime villain El-Hadji Diouf among those sent off by Calum Murray.
Diouf went face-to-face with Neil Lennon on the touchline in the first-half before Lennon was involved in another angry confrontation with Gers assistant boss Ally McCoist.
CELTIC 3-2 RANGERS (Scottish Premier League)
27 April 2008
A classic encounter that represented the see-saw battle the two Glasgow giants have enjoyed over the years as Gordon Strachan’s Hoops came out on top in a topsy-turvy humdinger.
From 1-0 up to 2-1 down, Celtic eventually stole the spoils through Barry Robson’s 70th minute penalty to move five points clear at the top with a second Old Firm win in the space of 11 days.
Although Rangers had three games in hand, the title momentum was firmly with the Bhoys, who subsequently went on to record four more victories and lift the trophy.
RANGERS 5-1 CELTIC (Scottish Premier League)
26 November 2000
Rangers equalled their biggest margin of victory in modern Old Firm times with a blistering four-goal haul in the second half as the defending champions left runaway leaders Celtic without an Ibrox win in six years.
Tore Andre Flo and Michael Mols scored on their Old Firm debuts while now Clyde boss Barry Ferguson and captain Lorenzo Amoruso were also on target in what was a must-win game for the Gers, who moved to within 12 points of their rivals.
Celtic’s Alan Thompson also received two yellows from referee Kenny Clark but it made little difference on a day that will be forever enshrined as one of the most famous in Gers’ history.
RANGERS 3-2 CELTIC (Scottish Cup Final)
4 May 2002
Another colossal and typically tight tussle was decided in the most dramatic circumstances with barely 10 seconds of injury time remaining as Peter Lovenkrands’ second of the game settled a cup double for Alex McLeish’s Rangers.
Martin O’Neill’s Celtic had twice led in front of a sell-out Hampden Park crowd but a team consisting of Jackie McNamara, John Hartson and Stiliyan Petrov among others were eventually undone as they were left to make do with only the SPL title that season.
With the two sides as evenly-matched as ever before, it was too close to call yet the Gers – inspired by captain Barry Ferguson – proved their worth on an emotionally-charged occasion to lift the Scottish Cup for the 30th time.
CELTIC 6-2 RANGERS (Scottish Premier League)
27 August 2000
As far as early-season entertainment goes, this Parkhead contest fitted the bill in every sense with Celtic producing six of the best to preserve their perfect start to the campaign under Martin O’Neill.
It had all the typical Old Firm ingredients – controversial decisions, penalties and red cards – with many conspiring against Dick Advocaat’s Rangers, who had been much the dominant force in Glasgow in the preceding years.
But there was no disputing the attack-minded Hoops were worthy winners as the likes of Chris Sutton and Henrik Larsson tore the Gers defence – which included Fernando Ricksen – to shreds.