Rangers v Celtic
Monday’s Old Firm meeting between Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox promises to be a defining match of the Scottish Premiership season. Should Ange Postecoglou’s side cross Glasgow and win, they will extend their lead to an unassailable 12 points with little under half of the season to play, but should the hosts pick up the victory in Michael Beales’s first derby in charge, the battle will be very much live.
Celtic understandably start as hot favourites. The Hoops have won 18 of their 19 previous league games this season and come into the fixture after thumping successes over St Johnstone and Hibs in two potentially awkward games. By contrast, Rangers have been getting victories but largely without the style that their guests have managed.
Recent history also favours Celtic. When the clubs met in Parkhead earlier this season, the outcome was a one-sided 4-0 success. Meanwhile, in the last league encounter between the clubs on the south side of the Clyde, Celtic secured a 2-1 success. Over the last five meetings in all competitions, Celtic have three wins to none for Rangers.
These are special games, though, played with a unique intensity and ferocity. Traditionally, they are matches in which heads have been lost and bookings have been frequent.
John Beaton will oversee this match, with the official averaging little over four bookings per game in the Scottish Premiership this season, including five in the only Celtic game he has officiated and four in his sole Rangers fixture. Meanwhile, he oversaw the 1-1 draw between the clubs in May, during which he showed seven cards – three to the Hoops and four to Rangers.
But who could be in disciplinary trouble this time around?
Undoubtedly one of the best value bets in terms of a yellow card is Rangers midfielder John Lundstram, who is on offer at 2.8.
The Englishman has been booked more than any player from either club this season, having worked his way into the referee’s notebook on nine occasions, with eight yellow cards and a straight red thrown in to boot. This is two more bookings than any of his team-mates and three more than any Celtic player.
Increasing his chances of seeing yellow is the fact that he plays almost every minute for Rangers. The Gers have played 30 games this season, with Lundstram starting 28 of those and playing the complete 90 in 25.
Though a keystone figure in the Rangers midfield, he has a tendency to struggle against dynamic opponents, which is exactly what Celtic are. He was shown a yellow card in his only previous Old Firm start at Ibrox
Aaron Mooy is likely to be overlooked at Ibrox because of the probable breakneck pace of the match in the early stages of the game, with O’Riley liable to be the man to replace him. The 22-year-old has already been booked three times in all competitions, which puts him behind only Moritz Jens and Cameron Carter-Vickers in the disciplinary charts at Parkhead this season.
The midfield area is liable to be one that is competed for intensely in this game, making an all-action player like O’Riley the type of player who could easily pick up a yellow. Indeed, he committed five fouls in the previous fixture this season – nearly half of Celtic’s total of 13.
Although he has been booked only once in the Premiership this season, two bookings in six Champions League outings show that he is prone to being cautioned on the big occasion. At 22, meanwhile, he is also one of Celtic’s least experienced players, with this set to be his first Ibrox start.
Croatia international left-back Borna Barisic is a player who specialises in picking up yellow cards in Old Firm matches. This will be his 14th taste of the fixture, with the 30-year-old having been cautioned in seven of his previous 13 matches against Celtic. Indeed, he has been booked in each of the last couple of matches between the clubs.
But it is not just against the Hoops that he can often find himself in disciplinary trouble – they just seem to bring out the worst in him. Indeed, he has been booked six times in 28 matches this season. Only Lundstram has more bookings for the Ibrox club this season.
Although just back from World Cup duty with his international team, he was used relatively sparingly, which means that he has been thrust back into competitive action by the Gers, who otherwise lack an obvious option in the left-back role. This means he is liable to get significant game time in this fixture.
Celtic have dangerous dribblers, with Liel Abada liable to be deployed down his flank. Against a tricky opponent who has the desire to be direct, there is a real likelihood of him getting in trouble.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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