CHRIS SUTTON insists Ange Postecoglou must perform a fine juggling act as he prepares Celtic for two monumental challenges in four days at Parkhead.
First up, Giovanni van Bronckhorst will bring his players to the home of the title winners for the crucial Premiership head-to-head confrontation this afternoon.
On Tuesday, Carlo Ancelotti and his Real Madrid superstars will provide the opposition as the Champions League Group F bid is launched in a sold-out stadium under the lights in the east end of Glasgow.
Sutton is adamant the European extravaganza is the more important occasion, but he has a warning for his old team before the derby.
PRIZE GUYS…Kyogo Furuhashi and Filipe Jota celebrate one of Celtic’s 25 goals this season.
The champions go into the game on the back of a 9-0 romp against shell-shocked Dundee United and followed up with a solid 4-1 Premier Sports League Cup victory over Ross County in Dingwall.
The former England international forward reckons the rout at Tannadice might NOT be a good thing for Postecoglou and Co.
Sutton said: “They need to be switched on against Rangers because, although I think Real is the tastier tie right now, that doesn’t mean today’s derby is reduced to a kickabout.
“And it might be the test Celtic need going into the Champions League, as well.
“That’s my only fear about my old club at the moment – they haven’t really been made to sweat yet. It’s been a fairly spectacular start to the season for Celtic. The goals are flying in and everything is positive.
“The 9-0 might have been fun for the fans, but it’s not necessarily a good thing for a team.
THREE AND EASY…Liel Abada celebrates his second-half hat-trick in the 9-0 hammering of Dundee United.
“Confidence is one thing, but you can’t just think it’s going to be a canter, just sitting back and waiting for a bit of Jota brilliance or a Kyogo darting run. You need to have the same intensity shown last season, right from the start.
“Celtic also have not really been put through their paces yet. They’ve enjoyed a gentle start to the campaign with a less hectic schedule and comfortable results.
“They’ll be out their comfort zone today though because, make no mistake, Rangers will have a real go. They got some joy pressing Celtic high up the pitch at Hampden last season and in the 1-1 draw at Parkhead at the tail end of the campaign.”
Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “Real Madrid on Tuesday night is by far the more important clash this coming week as far as I am concerned.
“Listen, I’ve played in enough derbies to know what is at stake and know how much it means to people.
A BIG HAND FOR THE FANS…Ange Postecoglou acknowledges the travelling Celtic support.
“But I believe Real is bigger. I really do. Ask yourselves this. Who would you rather beat this week, Rangers or Real Madrid? Which result would go down in history? It’s a no brainer.
“Victory against Rangers today would be good, but it’s not going to decide the league by a long stretch. Sure, Celtic going five points clear at the top would be an early advantage, but there’s a heck of a long way to go regardless.
“I know the title could come down to a point here or there, but it won’t hinge on this weekend.
“This is two good sides and neither one of them is going to go away if they lose this lunchtime. But Real Madrid at Celtic Park? This is a once-in-a-generation encounter.
“It’s Celtic back in the Champions League and a chance for Ange Postecoglou to test himself and his side against the very best.”
Looking again at this afternoon 12.30pm kick-off, Sutton added: “Gio van Bronckhorst might feel he’s worked out a game plan after seeing Celtic wipe the floor with Rangers back in February.
“Knowing what is coming with Celtic is one thing, though, coping with it is another.
CRASH LANDING…Daizen Maeda heads for the turf after a lunge from Kemar Roofe while Ryan Jack looks on.
“Postecoglou has options on the wings, does he go with Jota out on the left and Liel Abada on the right, where he tortured Berna Barisic last term? Or does he put Daizen Maeda on the left to tackle James Tavernier and switch Jota to the other side, even though I feel he’s more dangerous on the other side?
“It might not matter as Postecoglou can change it if things are not working. It’s up to Rangers to counter it. On the flip side, Celtic will need to cope with the likes of Tavernier pushing up the pitch.
“The supporters won’t admit it, but the manager will. This is a good Rangers side and there is not an awful lot between the squads.
“I do feel Celtic’s group is the stronger in general, though. We’ve not seen too much of Oliver Abildgaard, but it was a position that needed some cover and now Postecoglou looks to have a couple of players for every role, without a huge drop off in quality between them.
“I am a little surprised Van Bronckhorst didn’t go into the market late on in the window after the Champions League cash was guaranteed.
“If his team goes down today, Rangers fans will be asking the same questions. But today could go either way as this will be a real challenge for Celtic before the Real big one on Tuesday.”
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