Celtic are coming off one of their most impressive performances of the season, with the magnificent seven-nil victory over St Johnstone an example of Ange-ball at its finest.
Two weekends ago, Celtic tamed the Bears at Ibrox with a 2-1 away victory. As soon as the opening whistle sounded at Celtic Park under a week later for the game versus St Johnstone, you could tell the players, and Ange Postecoglou, had their tails up.
On the day, we had six different scorers – Reo Hatate, Giorgos Giakoumakis, Daizen Maeda, Josip Juranovic, Matt O’Riley (2), and Liel Abada.
It was one of those joyous days at Celtic Park when everything went swimmingly, and the afternoon was topped off by an appearance off the bench by talisman Kyogo Furuhashi.
Next up for the Celts, it is back to cup duties and the small matter of a Glasgow Derby against Rangers at Hampden in the Scottish Cup semi-final.
Rangers bounced back from the previous derby loss a fortnight ago by comfortably dispatching St Mirren 4-0, but like Celtic’s own comprehensive win the day before, it will not be an indicator of form or performance levels that we can expect for the semi on Sunday.
Indeed, it is likely that Rangers especially will treat the game as a one-off cup affair, and that will be reflected in the tactics employed by Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
In the league encounter at Ibrox, the home support would have demanded a fast-paced start from the get-go, and that is what they got. The problem was, that tactic eventually played into Celtic’s hands, as we constantly found pockets in between the opposition defence and midfield.
At Hampden, it is unlikely that Rangers will approach the opening minutes with the same intensity, as they undoubtedly fear what Celtic can do should these press lines be breached.
They will do absolutely everything possible to avoid the loss of an early goal, and so Ange’s men may need to be patient for the first 25 minutes or so. Furthermore, Rangers’ tactics on the day could be dependant on how their Europa League game against Braga on Thursday night goes. Extra time, a win or a loss could all have contrasting psychological and physical impacts on them.
That, of course, doesn’t mean that Celtic don’t have the quality to overwhelm even the staunchest of Rangers backlines.
As we all know, Postecoglou, domestically at least, will not alter his opening whistle tactics for any club. We will pop the ball around at pace, and it is the other team that will have to adapt to us.
Even though we are now blessed with one of the strongest squads we’ve had in 20 years in terms of depth in every position, we won’t see too many alterations from the St Johnstone game.
Predicted Celtic XI v Rangers
At the moment, the back five of Celtic picks itself, and it will be a major surprise to see any alteration from Joe Hart, Josip Juranovic, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Carl Starfelt, and Greg Taylor.
There are perhaps two positions which, at the moment, are not 100% clear, and for the midfield spots, that is due to the outstanding second-half outing from O’Riley against St Johnstone.
The January signing scored two goals after replacing Tom Rogic and displayed a lovely cohesion with his team-mates which would certainly be of benefit against Rangers.
However, Rogic enjoyed one of his best performances against Rangers two weeks ago, and it is likely that Postecoglou will keep faith in his compatriot, with O’Riley coming off the bench again.
Positive news emerged from Celtic on Tuesday that Giakoumakis trained with his team-mates after limping off on Saturday. The Greek has been in marvellous form for the team recently, but Postecoglou may take this opportunity to unleash Kyogo from the start in a frightening front three alongside Maeda and Jota.
Celtic Exchange Predictions
Here’s the big match predictions from our team ahead of Sunday:
Tino: 3-1 Celtic (Rogic, Maeda, Kyogo)
Ange has the players flying and 100% focused right now. As a cup tie, it could be a bit more frantic than last week at Ibrox. Kyogo to ease any fears by scoring the last goal.
Paddy: 2-0 Celtic (Maeda, Rogic)
I think we have been too much for them in the last 2 games we have played and have even taken our foot off the gas in both games. More of the same, please.
Mif: 2-0 Celtic (Rogic, Jota)
I think [Alfredo] Morelos missing for Rangers allows Celtic to play higher up the pitch, meaning Rangers aren’t sure whether to stick or twist against us. Hopefully, we get a good grip on the game and play our football. In about it, Celtic.
James: 4-0 Celtic (Kyogo (2), Rogic O’Reilly)
We’re only hitting our peak now and after the display against St Johnstone, Celtic will be just too strong for Rangers. A full squad to choose from, Angeball in full flow and goals from all over the park.
Stephen: 2-1 Celtic (Rogic, Kyogo)
Rangers have to win to salvage their season and will throw everything at us and expect them to get a helping hand from the ref. Celtic’s quality will tell in the end with Kyogo scoring a last-minute winner
Joe: 3-0 Celtic (Maeda (2), Abada)
With Giakoumakis perhaps not fully fit, Maeda will lead the line with Abada filling in out wide. We will keep the momentum going by winning comfortably.
Chris: 3-1 Celtic (Any scorers!)
I expect the game to be more open being a cup tie, with chances opening up for both teams. With the exertions of the Europa League game on Thursday night and the relentlessness of Ange Postecoglou’s footballing philosophy, I expect the Bhoys to run out comfortable winners!
Sinky: 4-0 Celtic (Abada (2), Maeda, O’Reilly)
The confidence will be up after the St Johnstone game which was easily the best performance of the season. With eight days rest and Rangers playing Braga on Thursday. I see us blowing them out of the water come Sunday. Comfortable 4-0 winners.
Deeksie: 2-0 Celtic (Any scorers!)
It’s Hampden, so as long as the pitch turns up, Celtic are favourites
Martin: 3-0 Celtic (Maeda Rogic, Kyogo)
The tactic Rangers employ on the day could largely depend on how far things go against Braga in the Europa League, But, with more than a week’s preparation, Celtic will be firing on all cylinders so they should have everything they need to blow their opposition away at Hampden.
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