Rangers vs Celtic preview: Who will gain early advantage in first Old Firm match of Scottish Premiership season?

Rangers could be much-changed for first Old Firm match of the season; Celtic hope Greg Taylor and Kyogo Furuhashi will recover from injuries; Watch Rangers vs Celtic, live on Sky Sports Football on Sunday; kick-off 12pm

Saturday 28 August 2021 10:36, UK

Rangers and Celtic go head-to-head in the first Old Firm match of the Scottish Premiership season on Sunday, live on Sky Sports Football.

After losing three of their opening four games, Rangers have started to find form with three wins and a draw in their last four in all competitions, while Celtic have won six of their last seven in all competitions after their exit from the Champions League qualifying stages at Midtjylland in late July.

Both sides sit on six points from their opening three Scottish Premiership games, and will be desperate to get a head-start on their rivals going into the international break, but the form in this fixture lies firmly with the hosts.

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Rangers have won four of their last five league meetings with Celtic, as many as they had in their previous 20 such clashes beforehand, while Celtic have lost four of their last five league visits to Rangers, including both trips last season.

The champions’ preparations for the Ibrox showdown have been hampered after manager Steven Gerrard and six players were forced to self-isolate following an unknown number of positive tests at the club. It is unclear whether Gerrard will be in the dugout for Sunday’s game.

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Rangers assistant manager Gary McAllister said: “It is a massive game and a game that every player would love to play in, whether you’ve played with the Old Firm or are watching from the outside – it catches the imagination.

“The intensity of the game and build-up to the game is big. We have a group of players here who are looking forward to it because it is a game for big players to produce moments.”

The match will be Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou’s first taste of an Old Firm clash and he has warned his players to expect a “great test”, irrespective of who Rangers field.

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“If you start thinking it is going to be some sort of an easier game because of disruptions they’ve had or disruptions we might have then you fall into a false trap,” he said.

“What we do know is that whatever the line-up is on Sunday they are going to be a formidable opponent. One thing we’ll never do is not respect an opponent irrespective of the build-up to a game, particularly a big game.”

Team news

Rangers could be much-changed for Sunday’s clash with Celtic after a Covid-19 outbreak affected their plans for the midweek draw with Alashkert.

Allan McGregor, Jon McLaughlin, James Tavernier, Scott Wright, Calvin Bassey and Ryan Kent missed the Europa League play-off, although it is not clear who was positive, injured or deemed a close contact.

It remains to be seen who will return, but Kemar Roofe and John Lundstram return from suspension.

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Celtic hope Greg Taylor and Kyogo Furuhashi will recover from the injuries that forced them off against AZ Alkmaar.

At least one of James McCarthy and James Forrest is expected to be available after missing the trip to Holland.

Former Legia Warsaw right-back Josip Juranovic could make his debut, but Christopher Jullien (knee), Mikey Johnston (hamstring) and Karamoko Dembele (ankle) remain out.

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Rangers vs Celtic is live on Sky Sports Football and Main Event from 11am on Sunday; kick-off 12pm. Sky Sports customers can watch in-game clips in the live match blog on the Sky Sports website and app. Free match highlights will be published on the Sky Sports website, app and Sky Sports Football Youtube channel at 8.30pm on Sunday.

Pick your combined XI

Rangers face Celtic in the first Old Firm match of the season on Sunday but who from each side would make your combined XI?

Key contests

Less than a month into the Scottish Premiership season and supporters already have an Old Firm clash to look forward to on Sunday.

The final round of games ahead of the first international break of the campaign sees Celtic make the short trip across Glasgow to Rangers, where a fiery atmosphere awaits them at Ibrox.

Ahead of this huge clash, WhoScored.com takes a look at four key battles that could prove decisive when these two lock horns once more…

Players to watch

For the first time in 610 days Rangers and Celtic will go head-to-head in front of a packed stadium – but which side will hold their nerve in the opening Old Firm game of the season?

Both squads have greatly changed since the last time the Glasgow giants collided in front of fans as Steven Gerrard’s side won 2-1 at Celtic Park in December 2019.

Rangers have not lost in this fixture since but are likely to face their toughest test to date with several key players set to miss out following a Covid-19 outbreak.

Across Glasgow, the Postecoglou era is well under way at Parkhead with several of the Australian’s summer signings impressing as Celtic recovered from an opening-day defeat at Hearts with consecutive 6-0 victories in the league.

So who will come out on top this Sunday? Well, we asked former Scotland international James McFadden to pick the players he believes will be key for each side if they are to win the first Old Firm match of the season…

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