No game against them is ever meaningless. These games mean everything to the fans, no matter the situation or stage of the season. These are the games that get marked on the calendar, these are the games that managers and players are remembered for.
The game today isn’t about this season, that’s long gone. It’s about the future and setting the tone for next season. Michael Beale has been tactically spot on in three of his four Old Firm matches. Despite that, he still hasn’t won any. The last two in particular Rangers have played well and dominated the games for the most part. Then individual errors have let the team down.
Errors at the back and not being clinical up top has handed them victories in the last two head to heads. Those defensive mistakes need sorted for next season. Rangers concede the same goals to Celtic time and time again. It’s either a cut back into an unmarked player in the middle or a cross to the back post to an unmarked player. It’s been the same in every game against them this season.
If Rangers can stop conceding those goals, they can get the better of Celtic. Rangers have won the midfield battle in the last two ties. Managing to stifle McGregor’s impact which stopped them playing their usual style. The midfield battle will be key again, but Beale knows how to win there. The issues come at the back and up top.
Rangers gifted Celtic two goals at Parkhead and one at Hampden. Three goals have been gifted to them while Rangers have struggled to put the ball in the back of the net at the other end. Rangers had more shots on target and more possession at Hampden and done nothing with it. They pounced on a mistake and took their chance.
That’s been the difference in the last couple of games, when they make mistake Rangers don’t take advantage. Yet, when Rangers make mistakes they always capitalise.
Concentration in defence and composure from the forwards is what Rangers lacked in the last two meetings. If both of those issues can be eradicated then the supposed ‘gap’ between the clubs becomes nonexistent. If the defenders keep focused and the forwards remain composed, Rangers can win this game.
Winning this game would be huge for Michael Beale. Not only because he’s gone four without a win but also because this isn’t the team he wants for next season. If he can get a team full of players he doesn’t fancy to beat them, imagine what he can do when he gets his own players in.
Today is a chance for the manager to prove to the fans he has what it takes to bring the club back to the top. He knows how to tactically set up for these fixtures now, he just needs to rely on the players to step up and be counted.