Sep 23, 2017 at 12pm UK at ​Ibrox Stadium
Attendance: 50,116

Morelos (43'), Candeias (72')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Rogic (50'), Griffiths (65')
Boyata (64')

Preview: Rangers vs. Celtic

Sports Mole previews the action from the first Old Firm derby of the season.

Rangers head into the first Old Firm derby of 2017-18 with ground to make up on table-topping rivals Celtic.

Pedro Caixinha's side are five points behind last season's treble winners after six matches and defeat at Ibrox could make competing for the title an uphill battle, as well as up the pressure on their Portuguese coach.


Rangers players celebrate Kenny Miller's goal in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic on April 17, 2016© Getty Images

Caixinha endured a tough start to his first full season in charge of Rangers, suffering humiliation in the Europa League as his side bowed out to Luxembourg's Progres Niederkorn in early qualifying, and they started their league campaign somewhat slowly.

The Portuguese spent big by Scottish Premiership standards over the summer, bringing in no fewer than 11 players, but the Gers won just one of their opening three league matches while the newcomers gelled.

However, there are signs that these teething problems are behind Caixinha's new-look team, with Colombian striker Alfredo Morelos hitting the ground running with eight goals to his name so far, while midfielder Graham Dorrans and Mexican forward Eduardo Herrera have also proved a threat in the final third.

The Gers have lost just once domestically all season, going down 3-2 to Hibernian at home in their second match of the season, and are undefeated in all competitions since.

Rangers did, however, endure fan criticism for allowing their lead to slip in their last Premiership outing away to Partick Thistle, but they head into the Celtic showdown having beaten the same opposition 3-1 after extra time in the Scottish League Cup quarter-finals during midweek.

Midfielder Carlos Pena, who has so far struggled to justify his £2.5m price tag due to fitness concerns, impressed during the win at Firhill Stadium, marking his first start for the club with a goal.

Rangers have won three out of their six league matches so far, beating Motherwell away on the opening day and rounding off August with a 3-1 win over Ross County, before dismantling struggling Dundee 4-1 ahead of their double header against Partick.

Draws with Hearts at home and the more recent Jags stalemate, along with that early Hibs defeat have raised questions about Caixinha's tenure, but the Gers boss will be hoping that the gradually improving form of his summer recruits will help salvage something on Old Firm day.

Recent form: WLDWWD
Recent form (all competitions): LDWWDW


Brendan Rodgers watches on during the Champions League game between Manchester City and Celtic on December 6, 2016© SilverHub

Celtic head into the domestic calendar's biggest fixture so far with a 56-game unbeaten run against Scottish opposition to defend, and their midweek demolition of Dundee in the quarter-finals of the League Cup will be seen as ideal preparation for the Ibrox firecracker.

Brendan Rodgers's men have dropped points just once this term, during a surprise 1-1 stalemate with St Johnstone at Parkhead in mid-August, and are otherwise averaging more than two goals per game.

New signing Olivier Ntcham has hit the ground running for the Hoops, adding a goal threat to their midfield, and Paris Saint-Germain loanee Odsonne Edouard has given Rodgers an extra option up front, though Celtic's goals are coming from across the field.

The Scottish champions endured a heavy defeat to PSG in the Champions League earlier this month, but it has been business as usual for them on the domestic front since then, with a comfortable win over Ross County in the league and that victory over Dundee in the League Cup following.

Rodgers is expected to name an attacking lineup to face Rangers, with his side touted as strong favourites to take maximum points from their trip to Ibrox.

Recent form: WWWDWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWDLWW

Team News

A very alarmed Moussa Dembele in action for Celtic in September 2016© SilverHub

Celtic are expected to unleash striker Moussa Dembele against Rangers, having rested the Frenchman in the midweek victory over Dundee at Dens Park.

Dembele made his first start of the current campaign during the previous weekend's win over Ross County following an injury layoff, but was sidelined against the Dee so he could reach peak match fitness for the Old Firm clash.

One fitness concern for the Hoops is defender Jozo Simunovic, who missed the cup quarter-final with a swollen leg. Simunovic will be assessed ahead of kickoff, with either Dedryck Boyata or Nir Biton likely to start in defence in his stead.

Rangers have a defensive headache to contend with and are short of options at left-back in the absence of Lee Wallace and the potential absence of loan signing Declan John through injury.

Key defender Bruno Alves is also out injured, which paves the way for rookie centre-back Ross McCrorie to start alongside Fabio Cardoso after impressing in the win over Partick.

Rangers possible starting lineup:
Foderingham; Tavernier, Cardoso, McCrorie, Beerman; Candeias, Jack, Dorrans, Windass; Miller, Morelos

Celtic possible starting lineup:
Gordon; Ralston, Boyata, Bitton; Brown, Forrest, Rogic, Ntcham, Sinclair; Griffiths, Dembele

Head To Head

Celtic are unbeaten in Old Firm games since Rodgers took the helm in May 2016, while Caixinha has lost both of the matches Rangers have played against their bitter rivals since he assumed charge.

The Gers only avoided defeat against the Hoops on one occasion last term - a 1-1 draw at Celtic Park last March when Graeme Murty was still caretaker manager.

The last time Rangers defeated Celtic was after extra time in the 2016 Scottish FA Cup semi-finals, after which they were beaten by Hibernian in the final.

Their most recent league win over their neighbours came in March 2012, although the two teams did not share the same division for several seasons after that.

Overall, Celtic have won 38 out of 87 Old Firm derbies, with Rangers winning 31 and the fixture ending in a draw 18 times.

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We say: Rangers 0-2 Celtic

There is still a gulf between Rangers and Celtic, and the champions are likely to exploit that at Ibrox.

The Gers proved unable to defeat Partick twice on the spin over 90 minutes and let three in against Hibs at home earlier this season, proving far lesser teams than the 56-match unbeaten Hoops are capable of getting a result against Caixinha's side.

Between the attacking prowess of Dembele, Leigh Griffiths and the threat posed by the free-scoring Scott Sinclair out wide, the Gers will find themselves outgunned, even if Morelos does prove a handful for the visitors.

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