On January 2, 2023, the green and blue sides of Glasgow, Scotland, clash in the 432nd Old Firm derby, providing a preview for the year in Scottish soccer.
Old Firm, as it’s known in Scotland, is the term used to describe the Glasgow derby. Though Edinburgh is the capital, Glasgow is Scotland’s biggest city. As a result, it houses Scotland’s two biggest teams, Celtic and Rangers.
The dominance of Old Firm in Scottish football is unique. The last time a team other than Celtic or Rangers won the Scottish top-flight was 1985. The team was Aberdeen, led by none other than Alex Ferguson.
This season has been no different. Celtic and Rangers have dominated the other 10 teams in the league. Rangers currently sit 17 points clear of the team below them. Yet, they are still second to Celtic who sit a further 9 points ahead.
After the midweek round of games, it’s looking less and less likely that Celtic will stumble on their way to a second successive, and 53rd overall, title. From 19 games played, Celtic have won 18, tied 0, and lost 1.
With the second Old Firm derby coming this weekend, live on CBS Sports Network, on paper it doesn’t look like there’s much to play for. While Celtic’s lead is probably insurmountable there is more to play for than bragging rights.
Old Firm preview shows importance of turn of year
After a humiliating exit from the UEFA Champions League, Rangers sacked head coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst. New head coach Michael Beale has had a positive impact so far, leading Rangers to 4 wins from 4 games, since Scottish Premiership action resumed.
The Old Firm match will be Beale’s first real test. Celtic demolished Rangers 4-0 at the last meeting in September. The outcome of this game will not have much impact on the title, but it will be an indicator if things have improved under Rangers’ new manager.
After dismal showings, both Celtic and Rangers are out of European competition this season. However, both sides are still competing in two domestic cup competitions, the Scottish Cup and the Scottish League Cup.
These competitions represent an opportunity for Michael Beale to earn his first silverware as Rangers boss. A win this Sunday will signal whether Rangers have improved enough to challenge for silverware.
In four consecutive seasons between 2016 and 2020, Celtic achieved the domestic treble winning the Premiership, the Scottish Cup, and the Scottish League Cup. Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou will want to cement his legacy as a top Celtic manager by joining Jock Stein, Martin O’Neill, and Brendan Rodgers, who all achieved this difficult feat.
The Measure of Success
Rangers and Celtic will both want to end the season with silverware. The fans demand it. To end the season without at least one trophy will be seen as a failure.
For Rangers to end the season empty-handed, on top of the horror of the Champions League exit, would be an abject failure. For Celtic to end the season with only the Premiership title to show for it would be a disappointment.
The expectations in Scottish football are sky high for these two teams. If glory and trophies aren’t within reach, thrashing the other team always seems to satisfy the fans, at least for a while.
PHOTO: IMAGO / PA Images
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