The wind will make it uncomfortable to be out and about in the Glasgow night but it will have a big impact on this evening’s game. Any team hoping to prosper from playing long-ball football is likely to flounder but it will be equally difficult for defenders facing balls that drop into their penalty areas.
Goalkeepers in particular face a difficult challenge. Rangers will not expect to have a great deal of possession around our penalty area so you can expect them to shoot early and from distance in the hope of exploiting the wind. There is probably a distance Celtic will be happy to see them shoot from but any space sub-30 yards from goal must be closed down.
Perhaps the most important preparation Celtic can do today would be to send Ki out with a bag of balls to get his shooting eye in. He has the ability to score from outside the box against any keeper in the world. Rangers’ McGregor doesn’t cope with a bit of movement in the ball, just ask Kris Commons, so will not look forward to seeing the ball fall to Ki in a shooting position.
Celtic’s most effective out-ball in recent weeks, high to the left wing for Georgios Samaras, will be difficult to make effective. The short passing game will be more profitable; Ki and Scott Brown in particular will need to fancy the game today. If we get a top performance out of both the result is not in doubt.
James Forrest is an fitness concern for Neil Lennon but he is a player who will worry Rangers manager, Ally McCoist, so I expect him to start, even if he’s not 100%. He has the kind of pace no defence in the league can cope with, he creates and scores goals. When he gets the ball, look out for how alert Rangers become. This is panic. Forrest will make it easier for others to find space, look for runs into the box from midfielders when he’s on the ball.
It would be a huge gamble to bring Emilio Izaguirre back into the starting line-up for this game after a four month injury lay-off but he is such an important player to how Neil Lennon wants Celtic to play I wouldn’t be surprised to see him. Celtic need to control the ball in midfield and Emilio’s composure is a huge advantage in this respect. 60 minutes from him might be enough to give us the edge.
Gary Hooper will score.
The most important question for tonight is who will be able to maintain discipline. Celtic’s recent narrow home wins against Kilmarnock, Hearts and Dunfermline should have been more comfortable but the visitors maintained composure throughout and gave themselves a good chance as a result. Rangers are a better team than any of these three but discipline and composure are not words you would use to describe today’s visitors. The most important thing for Celtic could be to frustrate Rangers and have the patience to wait for the opportunity to take advantage.
Get ready for a classic Glasgow night.