A Derby, A Cup Tie, A Final Shot at Redemption

As I write this, it is Friday morning in Japan and we are a little over two and a half days away from yet another game between Celtic and the team that calls itself Rangers.

Like many of you, I cannot wait for this wretched season to end. It seems that everything that could possibly go wrong this season has done so. What makes it worse is that our board stood impotently on the sidelines and watched most of it happen. Sevco, meanwhile, have won the league at a canter and still haven’t lost a league game all season, despite looking like a team that are eminently beatable.

Despite this, they remain the favourites to progress to the next round of the cup on Sunday. Of course the game should have been played tomorrow, but thanks to the death of a 99 year old man with no connection to Scottish football whatsoever, the game has been moved back 24 hours. On the flipside, it was quite ironic to see the rabid hoardes from Ibrox, typically anti-foreigner and right-wing in their world view, spend the last few days heaping praise on a Greek immigrant who never paid tax in his life and in all likelihood wouldn’t p*ss on them if they were on fire.

Anyway, I digress.

For Celtic, in a season where the biggest prize is long gone, this game now stands as our most important. Win it, and we have a clear run at a trophy, and at least something to show for this chaotic year. Defeat, and well we may as well just play the youth team until the end of the season as games will have no consequence whatsoever.

I may sound pessimistic but bizarrely enough, I’m actually rather confident going into this match. In fact, I am probably the most confident I have been about a game against them that I have been all season. By the law of averages, Rangers are long overdue a defeat. They have improved this season, there can be no doubt about that. But they remain far from a great team. There are weaknesses there to be exploited, weaknesses that, in all honesty, we should have taken advantage of in our last two meetings with them.

Celtic also go into this game off the back of what was, arguably, our best league performance of the season, a 6-0 demolition of Livingston. Personally, I hope we keep exactly the same team for Sunday’s match. We need players like Elyounoussi and Edouard to turn up. Plenty of times this season, they haven’t, but last weekend Elyounoussi in particular excelled. Another display like that and we will be well on our way to a win.

We need to be aggressive, we can’t give Rangers a moment’s peace. That’s why we also need big, commanding performances from McGregor, Turnbull and our leader Scott Brown. Brown has consistently bossed the midfield in countless Glasgow derbies down the years. On Sunday, we need one more inspirational display from him. Even at his advanced age, he still has an engine, a grit and a force of personality that are unmatched in Scotland.

This is a game we can win, and I believe we will.

The first goal will be crucial. All season, Rangers have shown a habit of bullying teams into submission once they gain an advantage. However, they have also shown fragility and petulance when things don’t go all their way. An early Celtic goal might just trigger a panic and hopefully an implosion from their defence.

We need to attack them, we need to be relentless and we need to be fearless.

I believe we can do it. I’m predicting a 3-0 win for Celtic. Let’s check back in a few days and see if I’m right.

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