Fifa referee Steven McLean will take charge of his first ever Old Firm derby when the two fierce Glasgow rivals meet on Hogmanay at Ibrox.
First Old Firm derby for Renfrewshire whistler McLean
First derby not officiated by Collum or Thomson since 2012
Second league meeting of the season
Celtic boss Rodgers’ first trip to Ibrox
Steven McLean will referee his first ever Old Firm derby in the televised New Year’s Eve lunchtime showdown, the Scottish FA has confirmed.
The highly-rated Fifa official has been given the difficult task of administering law and order in the Hogmanay meeting of bitter Glasgow rivals Rangers and Celtic (KO 12:15 BST, live on Sky Sports).
He will be assisted at Ibrox by Frank Connor and Douglas Ross – who were also the linesmen for September’s Celtic Park derby – while John Beaton will be keeping the peace in the dugout as the fourth official.
Collum and Thomson – Scotland’s only Uefa Elite Category officials – are the only referees among the current crop in the country who have previously experienced what is one of the most thankless tasks in world football.
So there is a certain level of responsibility on the shoulders of McLean, who has seemingly beaten off competition from Beaton and Bobby Madden to be appointed, in order to show that other officials are capable of rising to this particular challenge.
Only in an interview at the start of the season did McLean confidently insist the country’s whistlers can cope with the return of the unique Old Firm environment and there is enough strength in depth in terms of the number of leading match officials.
The 35-year-old has shown he can handle high-profile occasions in the 2014 League Cup Final at Celtic Park and last season’s dramatic Scottish Cup Final involving Rangers, after which he and his fellow match officials were caught up in an unsavoury pitch invasion.
McLean has been fourth official for two Old Firm derbies before but nothing can quite prepare him for his debut in the middle, with the Scottish Premiership’s top two desperate to sign off in 2016 with a winning feeling and bragging rights to boot.
The East Renfrewshire whistler endured an eventful afternoon in Rangers’ home win over Aberdeen at the start of the month, dishing out nine yellow cards and sending off both Gers defender Clint Hill and Dons skipper Ryan Jack in stoppage time.
Incidentally, McLean last encountered Celtic in a league match against the Dons at Pittodrie in October but many Hoops fans felt he allowed Aberdeen to apply too much rough treatment despite only brandishing five bookings in their side’s 1-0 victory.
They were the only occasions he has officiated either side in the league this term although McLean oversaw Rangers’ first competitive game of the campaign, in their 2-0 win at Motherwell in July in the Betfred Cup.
The officials – including an additional assistant referee positioned behind the goal – failed to spot a clear handball by Josh Meekings on the line before Hoops keeper Craig Gordon conceded a penalty and was sent off.
Celtic boss Ronny Deila was furious after the game with the first-half decision, which happened when his side led 1-0, and the club subsequently wrote to the Scottish FA but nothing came of their complaints.
Overall, he has brandished 95 yellow cards, sent off four players (three in the Premiership and all for second bookable offences) and awarded four penalties in 21 games in all competitions so far this season.
McLean – a Fifa referee since 2010 who refereed his first SPL game in November 2008 – is the older brother of former Ross County and Dundee United defender Brian McLean.
A qualified fitness instructor and physiotherapist, he is now employed full-time by the SFA as a referee recruitment and education officer.
Elsewhere, Willie Collum will be in the middle for Hearts against Aberdeen on Friday night as third and fourth in the table lock horns at Tynecastle.
You can see a full list of this weekend’s SPFL match official appointments here.
‘Horrendous and horrible’ – Fans react:
As is normally the case before any derby encounter, there is a lot of division among fans on social media – but most supporters of both teams have been largely united in being unimpressed with the choice of referee.
It's funny because Steven McLean is a horrendous referee.
Mark Warburton’s Rangers will be desperate to make home advantage count as they seek to record a first league win over their arch nemesis since a memorable 3-2 win over nine-man Celtic at Ibrox in March 2012.
But Celtic will have other ideas in their bid to increase their lead at the summit to a massive 19 points and simultaneously maintain their unbeaten domestic record this season under Brendan Rodgers.
Attention can now fully turn to the 404th meeting in one of world football’s oldest rivalries. Rangers know only a fifth league win in six games would be enough to keep alive their slim hopes of toppling Celtic, who have scored 11 goals in their last three away league games.
Moussa Dembele’s hat-trick helped Celtic thump five past Rangers in the first Old Firm derby in the Scottish Premiership for five seasons to maintain their 100% start to the league campaign.
Dembele nets perfect hat-trick: header, left foot & right foot
First league Old Firm for four and a half years
Rangers suffer first Scottish Premiership defeat of season
Rodgers gets better of Warburton as bosses clash in dugout for first time
MOUSSA Dembele scored a sensational hat-trick as a dominant Celtic swatted 10-man Rangers aside in the Scottish Premiership’s first Old Firm derby for five seasons.
The former Fulham striker, who only started because Leigh Griffiths was ruled out through injury, notched a double in the space of nine first-half minutes with a header and fine finish.
Joe Garner – on his first start for Rangers – gave the visitors hope by nodding home Kenny Miller’s header from close range on the stroke of half-time.
But Dembele set up Scott Sinclair, who netted for the fourth successive league game, before completing his historic treble to seal the deal.
And substitute Stuart Armstrong added gloss in stoppage time for the Hoops, who have now recorded four wins from four at the start of a league season for the first time since 2010.
The 20-year-old’s first career hat-trick was the first in an Old Firm league game since Stevie Chalmers in 1966, as the eagerly-awaited first league meeting of Glasgow’s fierce rivals since April 2012 delivered in every department and gave the Manchester derby a run for its money.
In truth, it was a comfortable afternoon for the champions, who laid down an early marker in their quest for a sixth successive title, as Brendan Rodgers enjoyed a winning Old Firm debut and his side maintained their 100 per cent start to the campaign in some style.
In contrast, it was a rotten first trip to Celtic Park for opposite number Mark Warburton as the Gers lost Rob Kiernan to injury and debutant Philippe Senderos to two daft bookable offences – before assistant manager Davie Weir was ordered to the dressing room.
Rangers began brightly but quickly faded away to become second best by some distance as their unbeaten, yet stuttering, return to Scotland’s top-flight came to a painful end at the home of their city neighbours.
For Celtic, it was the perfect warm-up for the start of their Champions League group stage campaign against Barcelona on Tuesday, with the only worry being Scott Brown’s withdrawal with a minor injury on 74 minutes.
Even though it failed to reach breaking point, the Hoops skipper – in his 23rd Old Firm appearance – enjoyed the hugely-anticipated duel with Joey Barton. And the recently retired Scotland international had the last laugh with another verbal jibe, claiming it was “men against boys”.
Although that was the case by the end, it was much tighter in the typically frantic opening exchanges, when lots of inflatables made their way on to the pitch and added to the carnival atmosphere inside a packed Parkhead.
Tom Rogic, who scored in April’s Scottish Cup semi-final before missing the decisive spotkick, had a couple of early sighters off target as he took up some intelligent positions in behind Rangers’ three-man midfield.
After an even opening, Celtic came on strong and started the unexpected rout on 33 minutes when Dembele rose above Kiernan to meet Sinclair’s corner before leaving Senderos for dead to confidently finish past Wes Foderingham and put the hosts firmly in control.
Rangers appeared to have dragged themselves back in contention before the interval as Garner bundled in Miller’s header from a James Tavernier cross – the club’s first league goal at Celtic Park in four visits.
After Andy Halliday replaced an ineffective Kranjcar for the start of the second half, the Gers briefly threatened to draw level when Barrie McKay curled a shot wide of the far post.
But the champions soon settled into their rhythm once more as Dembele’s defence-splitting pass released Sinclair, who clipped in off the post to continue his impressive start since arriving from Aston Villa.
As Celtic’s Patrick Roberts and Rangers forward Martyn Waghorn made their respective comebacks from hamstring injuries off the bench, Gers keeper Foderingham had to deny Armstrong and Dembele from distance.
Rangers began to unravel and a debut to forget for Senderos was compounded when the experienced former Arsenal defender, booked for a foul on Sinclair earlier, was dismissed by Willie Collum for a deliberate and daft handball.
It got worse when Warburton’s right-hand man Weir also received his marching orders for a foul-mouthed rant at fourth official Kevin Clancy.
Celtic showed no signs of letting up and ruthlessly cashed in on the numerical advantage in the closing stages, as Dembele took down a Mikael Lustig cross and fired home his third. He could be forgiven for the overzealous celebrations which earned him a booking.
3 – Moussa Dembélé is the first French player to score a hat-trick in Scottish Premiership over the last 10 seasons. Trigger.
As Celtic reflected on setting the standard in the first of four expected Old Firm showdowns this term, Rangers were left to lick their wounds and re-evaluate their options whilst scurrying out of the back door in the east end of Glasgow unnoticed.
But the real winner is Scottish football: the Old Firm is well and truly back, and here to stay!
Substitutes: Armstrong (on for Rogic 54′), Roberts (on for Forrest 64′) and McGregor (on for Brown 74′)
Not used: Gordon (GK), Gamboa, Izaguirre, Ciftci.
Booked: Bitton (8′), Toure (49′), Roberts (80′), Dembele (84′)
Referee: Willie Collum (Scotland) – 8/10 Assistant referees: Douglas Ross and Frank Connor (Scotland) Fourth Official: Kevin Clancy (Scotland)
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers: “It was a great day for the club and the team. If you think of all the travelling this team has put in over the last couple of weeks, with a lot of players away, to get back in and produce that level of performance with that energy in the team, I thought it was an outstanding team performance.”
Rangers manager Mark Warburton: “It was hugely disappointing. We were just talking in there that the fans were magnificent for us. I thought we were good in the second half. McKay had a good chance and we were in a good shape but we made some poor decisions and gave away cheap goals. As a group in there, we know that.”
Good Lord. What a shellacking. Celtic full value for 5-1. Rangers a touch lucky it wasn't more. Devastating.
Two cup ties in the last two seasons have given a small taste of what to expect but the first league meeting of Celtic and Rangers in four and a half years is sure to provide a more mouth-watering encounter to savour for a Saturday lunchtime.
Although the worldwide audience may be slightly diminished with the Manchester derby scheduled at the same time, the opening Old Firm derby of the campaign is the showdown everyone has been waiting for.
Rangers, back on the top-flight scene after working their way up the ladder in the face of adversity, are still yet to convince they can challenge their rivals from across Glasgow, who will look to maintain their 100 per cent league record ahead of a daunting trip to the Nou Camp to start their Champions League group stage campaign.
You can be forgiven for not knowing what to expect – other than the unexpected – so here are 10 things to keep a close eye on at Celtic Park…
1) Barton and Brown midfield match-up
Ever since the transfer of the summer in Scottish football arose, the mind games and banter has been flying around and the Twitter talk about how the combustible duo would conduct themselves on the same field has barely stopped.
Thankfully, there hasn’t been a long wait to find out – and Barton’s arrival at Ibrox has only added further spice to what was always going to be a titanic tussle.
Barton has played in high-profile battles south of the border but nothing on this scale and, after a slow start to his Rangers career, will be desperate to make a positive impact on the grandest of stages. Something he is more than capable of doing.
With two of the country’s biggest personalities going head to head, there is only room for one ego on the same field and don’t be surprised if one – or indeed both – lose their cool and don’t last the full 90 minutes.
2) Shaky defending from both sides
Despite the teams’ undoubtedly quality which makes them stand out as Scotland’s best, neither are renowned for their defensive stability.
Both have experimented with a back-three and a mixture of youth and experience in recent times but are yet to find the right solution to suit their personnel.
Although Eoghan O’Connell, 21, has shown a high level of maturity in the season’s early weeks, Celtic’s problems stem from constant changes to their centre-back pairing and their ability to make costly individual errors – Efe Ambrose being the prime candidate.
Whereas, Rangers have more experience of Scottish football in their ranks – Danny Wilson and Lee Wallace having played in several Old Firm meetings.
But rustiness is still evident, with Clint Hill admitting he still needs to get up and running and Wallace pulling out of Scotland duty with an injury complaint, while James Tavernier can often be too cavalier going forward, leaving acres of space waiting to be exploited.
With the stakes as high as they can reach and no margin for error, it will be interesting to see how messrs Warburton and Rodgers line up at the back and whether they will risk a more youthful look to the defence.
Neither have kept a clean sheet in the league so far this term and you would have to be extremely brave to bet on that statistic changing in this game of all games.
3) Drama upon drama
It would be no exaggeration to suggest a full-blooded Old Firm – complete with the usual cliffhangers that leave you wanting more – could rival an hour-long episode of Eastenders for explosive drama and unmissable viewing.
With sub-plots happening all over the pitch and every kick of the ball being keenly fought for, you can barely take your eyes off the action, of which there is a whole lot more than your average game.
Even a tepid battle between the sides – and there have been some in the past – contains its fair share of excitement and intensity to maintain your attention but rarely does it disappoint as far as entertainment value is concerned.
Assuming both sides finish in the top six (which is almost guaranteed), there will be four Old Firm encounters in the league this season and, should they all live up to the billing, Scottish football as a whole would be the biggest winners.
4) Passion on the terraces
When the fixtures were released in June, this was the one that everyone with Celtic and Rangers connections across the globe will have looked for before any other.
Ever since, the anticipation has been building – on derby day in Glasgow, emotions extend far deeper than the confines of the pitch.
An Old Firm occasion means so much to so many, regardless of the prize on offer, and the raw passion from a full house of 60,000 fans at Celtic Park will undoubtedly reverberate across the city on Saturday afternoon.
No matter what stage of the game or how well their team is doing, both sets of supporters will act as the proverbial twelfth man and could make the difference to ease the tension on the players and edge their side over the finishing line.
5) Touchline antics
Mark Warburton and Brendan Rodgers may have worked together on the coaching staff at Watford nine years ago, however Saturday represents the first time the two talented managers will come up against each other.
The pair – who were huge hits north of the border with Liverpool and Brentford respectively – have never been known for allowing feelings to overflow in the technical area and largely adopt a composed presence when issuing instructions to players.
If the game is played in good spirits, it might prove to be a quiet afternoon for the fourth official.
But, in the highly-charged derby environment when discipline and temperament can often fly out of the window faster than a tackle can fly in, anything goes and if decisions aren’t going their way they will be quick to make their dissatisfaction seen and heard.
Warburton has already sampled the atmosphere that comes with an Old Firm clash, albeit in different surroundings at the national stadium, hiherto it will be unchartered territory for Rodgers, who will know by the end of the afternoon just what all the fuss is about.
6) Attacking firepower coming to the fore
The big games always bring the best out of the big names and there will be plenty on show who will be looking to make an impact in the biggest match in the Scottish Premiership so far this season.
On Celtic’s side, Leigh Griffiths – who sweeped the player of the year awards with 40 goals last season – will be fresh from having the international break off, while James Forrest and Scott Sinclair have the creative potential to be the match-winner.
Regardless of who forms the attacking triumvirate behind Griffiths, it will contain enough quality to cause Rangers all sorts of problems.
One man who will be on a mission to take down the Hoops will be Kenny Miller, who has a habit of popping up with vital contributions as he did on the last derby day and will be full of condence after bagging four against Linfield. With Martyn Waghorn getting back to his best and Barrie McKay in top form, Rangers possess the tools to give Celtic a tough time.
There are options aplenty for both managers to choose from and, in a high-profile game when attack is likely to be the best form of defence, they should opt to overload their offensive choices which will make for a more open and expansive match and play to the strengths of both sides.
7) Officials feeling the pressure
Keeping control of an Old Firm derby can be as difficult a job for match officials as both sets of players care to make it.
Even before a ball is kicked, the referee has already adorned the status of ‘public enemy number one’ and Willie Collum, who has often come under fire for controversial calls, can expect nothing less than a tough afternoon.
He may have two Glasgow derbies under his belt, albeit in 2010 and 2011, but those experiences will count for very little once he sounds the first whistle.
As much as players are under pressure to perform, referees’ careers are also on the line in the biggest of fixtures and there is no margin for error.
Collum has kept a low profile in recent times after a flurry of high-profile errors earlier in the year but is notoriously card-happy, so the approach he adopts on Saturday will be interesting to observe.
As ever, concentration and position will be key – with an added need to stay focused amid a cauldron of noise inside a Parkhead packed with passionate patrons. If he survives the 90 minutes and isn’t being spoken about afterwards, that can be considered an achievement.
8) Revenge on Celtic minds
It may have hammered the final nail in Ronny Deila’s coffin to end his turgid two-year tenure but the Hoops will still be reeling, and hurting, from the Hampden horror of seeing their Glasgow adversaries progress to the Scottish Cup final at their expense in April – even though Hibernian went on to lift the trophy.
In contrast to Rangers’ stuttering form on their top-flight return, Rodgers’ men have made an assured start to their quest for a sixth successive league title and brushed aside their nearest challengers in the last two seasons, Aberdeen, with relative ease before the international break.
But the biggest opportunity to lay down an early-season marker in the title race comes this weekend – and Celtic will be desperate to send Rangers packing with a firm reminder of their status as the country’s force.
Only then could memories of Tom Rogic’s wild spotkick, which sparked even wilder Gers celebrations in front of their eyes at the national stadium, be truly laid to rest.
9) Fast and furious…even before the word ‘go’
The unrelenting tempo and frenetic nature made the Old Firm derbies of old a joy to watch from both a fans and neutral perspective.
Those occasions were simply unmissable and had a tendency to start at 100 miles per hour before speeding up somewhat.
Although the League Cup semi clash of 2015 lacked any real punch, last season’s Scottish Cup thriller delivered the typical blood and thunder encounter which ushered in a new era renewing the oldest of fierce rivalries.
The first league meeting in over four years has been a long time coming and – despite the prize only being three league points at this stage of the season, as opposed to a place in a domestic cup final – the competitive edge will be evident even before the first whistle has been blown.
10) Derby debutants looking to impress
A new league usually brings a raft of new signings and it’s been no different for Rangers, with 12 new faces winging their way through the Ibrox doors this summer.
It’s been a bit quieter on the Celtic front with six players drafted in as Rodgers looked south of the border to integrate fringe players from English clubs whilst opting for quality over quantity.
Of all the recruits from both sides of the divide, none have experienced this unique occasion before, which may count against some of them in the cauldron of Celtic Park.
Many of the summer buys have already had a settling-in period but still have a point to prove – and Saturday lunchtime at Parkhead is no better time to do it. If they can perform to a high level in their Old Firm initiations, it would certainly bode well for the mammoth season ahead.
The Euro 2016 referee will be in the middle at Celtic Park for the first Old Firm derby in the league since April 2012.
EURO 2016 referee Willie Collum will take charge of his third Old Firm derby when Celtic welcome Rangers to Celtic Park this weekend.
The 37-year-old has been given the responsibility of keeping a lid on proceedings this Saturday lunchtime for the first league meeting between the fierce Glasgow rivals for four and a half years (KO 12:00 BST, live on Sky Sports 2).
He will be ably assisted by Frank Connor and Douglas Ross, with Kevin Clancy on electronic board duties as fourth official.
Collum, of Lanarkshire, will be in the middle for his eighth game in all competitions this season – and third in the Scottish Premiership.
His latest outing came last weekend in which he booked three players in world champions Germany’s 3-0 win over Norway in their opening 2018 World Cup qualifier.
Ross – who was one of his assistants in Oslo – is also involved in politics, as a Scottish Conservative councillor for Fochabers-Lhanbryde on Moray Council and Member of Scottish Parliament for the Highlands and Islands.
But it will be difficult for the Glasgow-born whistler to stay out of the headlines as he prepares to handle the biggest game of the season so far and his third fixture involving the sides – all of which have come at Parkhead.
Two of the five bookings came in the first five minutes and he awarded a controversial second-half penalty to the Gers when Kirk Broadfoot fell easily over Daniel Majstorovic, even though he appeared to have his back turned to the play at the time.
Collum then oversaw Celtic’s 1-0 victory at Parkhead in December 2011, for which his handling of what might have been a volatile game was roundly praised but Lee Wallace had a goal ruled out for Rangers which had actually crossed the line.
During those games, Collum awarded three penalties to Celtic, whereas in contrast, he was in the middle for only three Rangers games in 2015-16 – but awarded the Gers a penalty in each one.
Collum – a part-time Religious Education teacher at a Bellshill primary school – was a late replacement for Craig Thomson to oversee Mark Warburton’s first game in charge in the 6-2 win over Hibernian in the Challenge Cup first round at Easter Road in July.
Warburton branded some of Collum’s decisions as “shocking” – referring to the penalty awarded to the hosts when Danny Wilson clearly brought down Will Vaulks outside the box, before Martyn Waghorn’s late penalty was saved after a perceived handball by Craig Alston.
A notoriously card-happy Collum, who began refereeing in 1993, is no stranger to dealing with difficult situations and has a wealth of experience in so-called big games both domestically and across Europe.
He has been in charge of two Scottish Cup Finals in 2013 and 2015, the 2012 League Cup Final, two Premiership play-off second leg ties as well as receiving the honour of refereeing the 2015 Uefa Super Cup when Barcelona beat Sevilla 5-4 in Tbilisi.
But Collum was dropped from officiating Premiership fixtures for several weeks last season after a number of high-profile blunders, including two penalty incidents in Aberdeen’s 3-1 defeat at Inverness in February.
And, having yet to encounter either side this season, it was widely expected Collum – the only other referee with previous Old Firm experience among the current crop of officials – would be appointed to the first derby of the campaign.
As domestic action resumes this weekend after the international break, champions Celtic have played a game less but sit one point ahead of second-placed Rangers – who have won only one of their last seven trips to Celtic Park.
It will be Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers’s first taste of the Old Firm but, as he prepares to come up against Mark Warburton for the first time in the dugout, the Rangers boss tasted victory in a penalty shoot-out on his derby debut in the Scottish Cup in April.
Good work by @ScottishFA in appointing Willie Collum as ref for Celtic v Rangers, therefore deflecting from the latest Strachan nonsense…
Both have gone in vastly different directions since Celtic won the last meeting 3-0 in the Scottish Premier League at Parkhead in April 2012.
The Hoops – now under the stewardship of Ronny Deila with the Norwegian replacing Neil Lennon last summer – are gearing for a fourth successive top-flight title having experienced the highs and lows of the Champions League and won the Scottish Cup in 2013.
The Gers meanwhile were subsequently expelled to the fourth tier having gone through liquidation and administration but – having gained successive promotions – sit 13 points adrift of Scottish Championship leaders Hearts in the race to return to the Premiership.
As well as numerous players, both managers will be making their Old Firm initiations although Light Blues caretaker boss Kenny McDowall – who took over from Ally McCoist last month and will himself resign at the end of the season – has tasted this fixture for 18 years as a coach.
Celtic, having won four league games in a row and kept five successive clean sheets, are overwhelming favourites to emerge victorious as they seek to win the League Cup for the first time in six years.
27-time winners Rangers – the most successful side in the competition – will take confidence from the fact they have beaten three Premiership teams in cup ties this season although their last two league matches against Hearts and Cowdenbeath have been postponed.
Celtic – three points clear of second-placed Aberdeen in the Premiership – lost 3-2 to St Mirren in their most recent League Cup semi appearance two years ago while it is the first time the Gers have reached this stage since winning the trophy in 2011 by beating the Hoops in the final.
Although Rangers have been bailed out by a £10 million loan from Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct this week, Hoops fans took the opportunity to taunt their financial situation by shelling out £3,000 to publish an advert claiming the Old Firm is “redundant” and this was the first ever meeting of the sides in reference to the Gers re-launching as a new company.
Whether the Rangers supporters – desperate for more glory at the national stadium – will have the last laugh remains to be seen.
The Hoops have recovered from a minor blip with an emphatic response and are entering the contest in almost the best possible shape. Ronny Deila will know his side are overwhelming favourites and warn the players against complacency. Rangers, meanwhile, could be rusty having not played a full match since January 10. Celtic have greater firepower with Kris Commons appearing to hit the kind of form which helped him win the PFA Player of the Year award in Scotland last season while John Guidetti will be itching to get on the scoresheet as per his hat-trick comments. The Gers have the ability to cause an upset and at least frustrate the Premiership champions but quality and endurance will eventually prevail. However, it is important for both sides to maintain their discipline. It cannot be understated how huge an occasion it is and one that everyone hopes will be memorable. The global audience will be casting its eye and let’s hope Scottish football proves to be the ultimate winner.
This is the 400th meeting of the two rivals stretching back to May 1888 – and their 48th in the League Cup.
Celtic last appeared in the final of the competition in 2012 when they lost 1-0 to Kilmarnock.
The last 10 meetings in all competitions represent five Celtic wins, three Rangers wins and two draws.
John Guidetti has not scored in his last eight games having netted 11 times in his first 12 appearances for Celtic.
The Hoops have scored 13 goals and are yet to concede in either domestic cup competitions this season.
Celtic striker John Guidetti – who earned his first start in six games against Ross County last time out – has previously claimed he aims to bag a hat-trick against Rangers.
Hoops midfielder Stefan Johansen is expected to return after missing last weekend’s 1-0 win at the Global Energy Arena with a head injury despite still having stitches in a cut above the eye.
On-loan Aston Villa winger Aleksandar Tonev is available again after serving a seven-match ban having been found guilty by the SFA of racially abusing Aberdeen defender Shay Logan back in September.
But versatile Scottish international Charlie Mulgrew will be out with a knee problem until the end of March.
Rangers defender Bilel Mohsni has been ruled out after his nation Tunisia advanced to the next stage of the Africa Cup of Nations and will play on Saturday night.
Number one goalkeeper Cammy Bell remains sidelined with a shoulder problem so veteran Steve Simonsen – who was recently found guilty of placing 55 bets on football matches – will continue to deputise.
Former Celtic striker Kenny Miller – set for his 17th Old Firm derby outing – and Jon Daly are likely to lead the line for the Gers.
AS Celtic and Rangers prepare for their 400th ever meeting, here are the past five showdowns as well as a pick of some of the most memorable clashes in an Old Firm derby rivalry which stretches back over 127 years.
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.
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.
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
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.
AS Celtic prepare to face Glaswegian rivals Rangers in the first “Old Firm” derby since April 2012, many of those past and present who have or have not been involved in the famous fixture give their views.
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.
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:
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”