Here we are then. The game that no one wanted. Unless you actually happen to like football of course, in which case it is the game everyone wanted.
The SPFL did their best to try and avoid a title clinching match between two Glasgow clubs, based on the fact that we went a bit mental back in 1999 when Rangers turned up and clinched the title at Celtic Park.
You may have heard about it from the media in recent weeks. They oddly seem to focus on that game and ignore all the other times there are trophy clinching matches between the teams.
1967 for instance, when we won the league at Ibrox with a 2-2 draw. Or 2012 when we didn’t win the league at Ibrox thanks to a 3-2 defeat and instead won it at Rugby Park a few weeks later.
It’s funny how that 2012 game has been completely forgotten about in some quarters. I have honestly seen the 1999 game referred to as the last time it happened several times.
I could also point out that the league was last won away in a Glasgow derby in 2014, when Neil Lennon’s side crushed Partick Thistle to clinch a third consecutive league title. But we all know the problem is in the stands, right?
So yes, this is a different team called Rangers that we face today compared with 2012, 1999 or 1967. Or even 2002 or 2003 or 2009 or 2011 when we played them in various cup finals. There was even another one in 1999 just weeks after the one they get so worked up about!
Funny how those deciders just get ignored too, isn’t it?
Trouble at games with these fans does happen, no one is disputing that. But not at every game, and not necessarily when something is up for grabs. The 2011 cup match that ultimately led to the miserable offensive behaviour at football act was mostly trouble on the pitch! The 1980 cup final which got alcohol banned has since been followed up by another in 2016 – clearly alcohol was an innocent bystander.
Oh yeah, 2016 didn’t involve us, did it? Just them. Hmmm.
Anyway, regardless of the rights or wrongs, trouble happens but not to the massive proportions that so many people freak out about. So calling for call ahead of today’s game is ridiculous. Most will be, some won’t be. Chances are this game will pass off without incident.
At least off the park.
On the park we have Craig Thomson who will try to keep the score down as he always does. We’ll be up against a team whose manager has been undermined by PR from above just as happened before we destroyed them at Hampden earlier this month.
The results we’ve had recently against this lot are rather odd actually. The last twice they’ve come to Celtic Park they’ve then left with a draw. Earlier this season it was goalless, and last season they drew 1-1 and were one of only four teams to take anything off the invincibles.
Of course, the time before that was a 5-1 hammering. They’ve lost 5-1 at home too, as well as 2-1, 2-0 and most recently 3-2. We’ve played them at Hampden three times under Brendan Rodgers and beaten them 1-0, 2-0 and of course most recently 4-0.
Indeed, throw in the two results that Ronny Deila had against them – a 2-0 and a 2-2 – and they’ve still yet to beat us.
Yes, I know, they won a penalty shootout. That decided a tie, it wasn’t technically a victory.
Anything less than a win for them today and they are officially unable to win the league. They absolutely have to beat us. A draw stops us winning the title today as Aberdeen could still catch us, but it wouldn’t be enough for them.
They also need to win because Hibernian are level on points with them after they won 5-3 yesterday against Kilmarnock, while Aberdeen are three points ahead of them having beaten Hearts on Friday night.
They have plenty more reasons to want to beat us than we have to beat them. If we don’t win the title this week, we still have another three games to do it.
But then again, it is them. New club or not, we all know who backs them.
After last week’s disappointment, we’ll want to get things back in order again. Three defeats this season isn’t terrible in the grand scheme of the season, but it’s possibly the first time we’ve lost a big game under Rodgers.
That tends to hurt more.
So what can improve this week? I’d imagine our opponents will try to learn from Hibernian, but I doubt they have the energy to do it. So they’ll probably try to stifle us one more, and hope it’s more like their last visit to Celtic Park and less like the last game at Hampden.
From our perspective, Scott Brown shouldn’t be ill like he was last week. Moussa Dembele might be fit, but if not you would hope Odsonne Edouard will start or Leigh Griffiths is better than last week!
Defending better might help too. Hibernian did well against us, but the two goals they scored could and should have been dealt with better.
Would be nice if Tom Rogic is back on form too. He had a few great chances last week and didn’t take them. But he has a great scoring record against today’s opposition having scored in both Ibrox games and the Hampden game this season. He didn’t play in the last Celtic Park game so he’s on a 100% record at the moment!
We all know if we play to our best then we should win. What they do or don’t do shouldn’t matter. What the referee does and doesn’t do shouldn’t matter. But both will definitely matter if we’re not at our best.
So let’s get that best performance, give them nothing, get the title clinched, and get celebrating seven in a row.
Our visitors will surely skulk away if we do.
Krys (Twitter @krys1888)