5 to Follow - Other Half of the Old Firm

This Sunday will see Steven Gerrard gain his first taste of what an Old Firm game atmosphere is like from the dugout when he takes his side across the city to face off against Celtic. 

This follows on from Thursdays nights epic 1-1 result with Ufa, a result that can't be underestimated on any level. It was a tough watch at times, but all the proof is there in that result, just how far we have come. 9 f***ing men. The draw sees up pitted up against Villareal, Spartak Moscow and Rapid Vienna. 

How good was that sitting back on Thursday night, knowing we are back in a European competition?I felt like Scrooge opening up the windows and shouting out on Friday morning, it felt great. 

Of course, the management teams will have a degree of familiarity about them having previously been at Liverpool, Gerrard famously running the dressing room for his opposite number, during his short trophy less tenure in charge at Anfield. 

Here are the 5 storylines to follow vs Celtic. 

1 - FULLBACK?

Last Sunday we witnessed James Tavernier's defensive shortcomings once again, yes he was not alone in having a bad game, although let's be honest the captain has previous. Celtic will no doubt look to target the flaws in Tavs game through the encounter. One option would be to play the more assured, defensive-minded Jon Flanagan at right back. 

Personally, this is something I would give a degree of consideration to, the thing is I just can't see Stevie G dropping his captain for such a vital game. Gerrard may opt to push Tav further up the park in an effort to exploit all the positives Tav can bring in an attacking sense. 

I know many supporters are split between the skipper and just what he contributes, some like myself feel a defenders first priority should be to defend, whilst others are happy to make the sacrifice for all that Tav brings in an attacking aspect. 

If he can play at the level he showed in the first league at Parkhead last season, one where he was outstanding in both phases of the game, rightly winning the man of the match, then he can be a real game changer. 

The question is quite simply what Tav will turn up? Finding a level of consistency has been something that has plagued the player throughout his career. Thursday night did see Flanagan being exposed badly at times, so no matter who plays must be switched on at all times.

2 - WHAT FORMATION DOES GERRARD DEPLOY?

One of the biggest and hotly debated questions heading into the game is what formation will the manager choose to start with. Will it be a 4-4-1-1 or 3-5-2?

Last Sunday at Fir Park we saw Gerrard use the 3-5-2 formation for the first time, despite the result I felt it had many positives in the number of chances we carved out, mainly via Barasic on the left flank. His delivery of balls into the box really was second to none. Matched by the runs of Lafferty, Barasic has shown already since arriving just how dangerous for the opposition his crossing ability is. Defenders will be terrified of seeing him in advanced areas of the park. The types of crosses he is capable of are the ones that are incredibly hard to defend against, such is the pace and trajectory he gets.  

Gerrard may decide to persist with the  4-4-1-1 formation that served us so well on Thursday, tucking in the wide men when we lose possession, it also gives off the option of dropping Lafferty back as at spells we may be forced to soak up pressure at stages in the game. 

3 - MORELOS REDEMPTION

El buffalo owes us in a big game, pure and simple. His red card in Thursday just served as a bigger example if of what has become a far greater issue in his play. We all knew to go in the ref would be looking for reasons to send off players, yet the wee man still gave him reason to do so, harsh or otherwise. 

Yes, I know the red card on Thursday was harsh, the thing is it's been said too many times about the same player to now be a coincidence. He is going to be targeted, in every game we've seen it. He must keep the head, pure and simple. We need 11 players on the park, for a change.

Throw into the mix his previous misses in matches against them and I'm sure you all agree the wee man is due a goal or two, what better time to pay us and the gaffers faith in him back in big matches.

Will he start, would you trust him?

4 - HOW MUCH DID THURSDAY TAKE OUT THE SQUAD?

9 men did it, but it takes an awful lot out the squad. We have played a great deal of football so far this season, so Gerrard might opt to freshen things up a touch. 
I know we flew straight home following the match this is something we will have to get accustomed to with European football on the calendar for the foreseeable future  (just saying it again sounds great) 

The big question is how much vital energy in the legs and minds the game and travel has taken from the players, especially going into the closing stages of a match I predict to be yet another tight and tense affair. 

I'm aware our Old firm rivals had a match on Thursday evening also the difference being they were at home, with 11 men and a far easier tie to navigate. Gerrard has done a great job so far of freshening things up, and let's be honest Morelos and Barasic will be fresh and raring to go. 

I can't see Gerrard throwing any of our new signings on from the start, but what it does give us is options from the branch we have sadly lacked so far. 

5 - CAN LAFFERTY KEEP UP HIS RECORD

The slayer of Celtic, Kyle Lafferty will be looking to keep up his goalscoring record on Sunday, he has caused the Celtic backline no end of issues in his previous encounters. Here's hoping the big man can do it again. 

The player that has retired from Hearts seems a much more mature all rounded player than the petulant stupid boy who left us. 

What he is now is a key and vital player, great in the air, good at hold up play and loves to wind up them. What more do you want?

Another Buddy Holly will do just fine for me. 

5a - SMALL MARGINS

In any big game like Sundays, there is no shortcut to success. What will bring success, followed hopefully by 3 points is simply hard work, winning personal battles all over the field and doing the little things that will add up to big things, correctly?

We must not play the occasion or get caught up in the heat of theme. No, you win the game by playing it on our terms, dictating the play, enforcing our style and brand of high tempo football on them. 

Calm heads and strong minds will go a long way in the quest to secure maximum points, with it applying some pressure on an already rocky ship. The inches are everywhere. 

All we asked for is a side to be proud of. We have that. This is a Rangers team. 

PREDICTION 

Celtic 1 - 2 Rangers

How confident are you? Where do you see the game being won or lost, as always get in touch, with predictions and anything else ahead of Sunday's match. 


Let's go. 

Steven Harrigan (@steven_harrigan)

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