It’s a rare occurrence that very little rides on the Old Firm Derby. However, when Celtic welcome their biggest rivals to Parkhead on Sunday, that will be the sad reality of the situation.
The SPFL title is no longer Celtic’s so this encounter may well be a tamer affair than usual.
This match marks a wonderful opportunity for John Kennedy to stamp his authority down and stake a claim for the permanent gig as Hoops boss.
Thus, he’ll need to get his team selection spot on. Kennedy will have a host of dilemmas, particularly in forward areas where they disappointed against Dundee United.
Odsonne Edouard was lacking fluidity while his usual clinical nature completely deserted him. The Hoops drew 0-0 and were made to rue a succession of opportunities to score. Benjamin Siegrist between the sticks made a mighty 12 saves during the clash.
Their performances in recent weeks haven’t been helped by Ryan Christie. The winger has been off the pace and has now scored just twice in his last 25 outings. Considering he bagged 20 goals last term, it’s a woeful effort from a player with so much ability.
Christie has been shocking lately and nothing typified that more than his display against Ross County. In losing 1-0, the Scotsman was woeful in the penalty area. He spurned four chances and even fired an effort over the bar and then over the stand from just a matter of yards out.
Fortunately, Kennedy has one of Celtic’s biggest weapons back; James Forrest.
The Hoops icon has only started five league games all season and hasn’t been seen in the starting XI since last September. On that occasion, Forrest typically found the back of the net.
The 29-year-old has missed a remarkable amount of football with an ankle injury but he made his return against Dundee United a fortnight ago. Forrest appeared from the bench and after having numerous weeks in full training, he has to be unleashed on Sunday against Rangers.
The £15k-per-week winger brings pace, power, trickery and the ability to score goals to the Bhoys. Crucially, however, is his ability to pop up in the big moments. “He is a big game player for Celtic. He is one of the boys that can do damage, he can score goals,” Frank McAvennie commented in January.
Forrest netted 16 times last season, providing 22 assists in the process. Missing a player like that since September, therefore, has been gut-wrenching.
A player so consistent for Celtic, it’s hardly a surprise that without him they’ve lost the title. Bringing him into the fray on Sunday will do little to help their cause this season, but it could be game-changing in terms of the result.