Celtic travel to Ibrox on Saturday with as much confidence as they’ve ever had heading into the fixture. Still unbeaten in domestic competition since Brendan Rodgers arrived at the club, they’ve looked as dominant this season as they did during their treble winning campaign last term. The last times the two sides met the Hoops emerged as 5-1 winners at the home of the Light Blues, the worst defeat suffered by Rangers there in over 100 years.
It’s all there again for Celtic too. The glory, the domination and even perhaps a significant step towards their seventh league title in a row. It seems silly to say given we are only in September, but another big win over Rangers in their own home could spell the end of any significant challenge they could have brought to the table.
Pedro Caixinha has tried to enact change at Rangers this season but inconsistent results mean that he’s under heavy pressure going into Saturday’s game. Rangers fans simply need to see progress from a near whitewash at the hands of Celtic last season or the Portuguese might not be able to survive in the long-term. His credibility with supporters is on the line.
With Rangers’ summer recruitment came hopes and dreams that they might be able to sustain some sort of challenge. However, defeat at the weekend would mean they’d be eight points behind the reigning champions already and with Celtic seemingly unstoppable every single week in Scotland, it’d be a very difficult gap to close.
The Caixinha experiment has been an interesting one but all roads have led to this point and if Brendan Rodgers can motivate his side to show the ruthless streak that was on full display in April, it could be an experiment that is coming to an end.
All signs point to the Hoops scoring plenty on Saturday too. They’ve scored four or more goals in a massive eight of their 15 matches so far this season. It’s an unbelievable return, they’ve truly shown no signs of slowing down or of complacency when going about their business in the Scottish Premiership and League Cup.
Goals are again coming from all over the team with James Forrest and Scott Sinclair already approaching double figures, supported by the likes of Callum McGregor and Leigh Griffiths. On their day, they are simply unstoppable at this level and the truth is Rangers could be powerless to resist another derby drubbing.
Rangers have only managed to keep a clean sheet in one of their league fixtures so far this season and that came in a game they also failed to score in. With experience defenders Bruno Alves and Lee Wallace missing, Caixinha will have to turn to youth or players who are not yet established first-teamers in order to keep out Rodgers’ men.
The Light Blues must find the fighting spirit that allowed to compete in March’s 1-1 draw at Celtic Park, when they were similarly expected to be trounced under the caretaker management of Graeme Murty. If they can show that kind of fire and physicality, they could get closer to the Hoops.
However, the situation is dire and Celtic know that a big win will send out the signal that there are simply no contenders to their Scottish Premiership crown.