The Scottish Premiership has been devoid of a serious title race for a decade with Celtic romping to nine in a row, before Rangers excelled last term as the Hoops struggled to maintain their standards.
Just two points separate the Old Firm duo heading into this crunch encounter and a positive result here could be the difference this season when silverware is eventually dished out.
Celtic were enabled to close the gap at the weekend as Rangers failed to hold their lead at Ross County, though the Gers remain unbeaten under Giovanni van Bronckhorst, winning 10 of 13 games across all competitions.
However, a slight concern ahead of this one is that all three occasions where they failed to extract maximum points came away from home, against Lyon in Europe, and more recently at Aberdeen and Ross County in league action.
Celtic arrive in even more impressive form, with Liel Abada’s last-gasp winner hosting Dundee Utd on Saturday leaving them with a remarkable W20-D2-L1 record since the start of October.
The sole defeat came away to Leverkusen in Europe and in the league alone, the Hoops have now won 14 of 16 unbeaten matches as they’ve gradually hauled themselves to within touching distance of their bitter rivals.
Ange Postecoglou does however have to contend with a number of absentees at present and especially in midfield. Calum McGregor, David Turnbull and Yosuke Ideguchi were already sidelined through injury, while Tom Rogic is away with the Australian national team, so the last thing Celtic needed was stand-in captain Nir Bitton picking up a red card last time out.
That should mean a rare opportunity for James McCarthy alongside impressive new signings Reo Hatate and Matt O’Riley, with Ismaila Soro the other option for Postecoglou in the middle of the park.
Elsewhere, Daizen Maeda is also away on international duty, while Kyogo Furuhashi is expected to miss out again, so Gorgios Giakoumakis can expect to continue his run in the team leading the line.
However, he has impressed in recent showings and the Hoops will possess considerable threat out wide with Jota, Liel Abada and James Forrest all available.
Celtic To Win By One Goal
It may actually be Rangers who struggle more in attack with Alfredo Morelos in South America with the Colombian setup and Ianis Hagi ruled out for the season. Cedric Itten has failed to convince when handed opportunities for Rangers and the visitors could be a little toothless without their front man.
Rangers have dominated the head-to-heads recently with six wins and a draw from the last seven meetings, though it’s fair to say that momentum has shifted and Celtic are a much-improved outfit since these two last met back in August.
Throw in the host’s record of 14 wins from their past 17 league games at Parkhead, and the Hoops deservedly enter this clash as favourites.
They never conceded more than a single goal in any of those games, registering clean sheets on 13 occasions, whereas Rangers are looking a tad shaky at the back with just two shutouts from their last 10 away trips in all competitions.
Although Celtic could just edge this one, any margin of victory is almost certain to be narrow. Postecoglou’s side have won by a single in four of their last five home league games and despite a slight dip, Rangers do remain unbeaten under current management.
The Gers’ 3-3 draw with Ross County was unusual for it’s high-scoring nature, with Alan McGregor surprisingly dropping a pair of clangers, as each of their previous six league games featured fewer than three goals.
CELTIC TO WIN BY ONE GOAL
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