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Discussion in 'TalkCeltic News' started by BTG, Aug 28, 2004.

By BTG on Aug 28, 2004 at 7:36 PM
  1. BTG

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    The first Old Firm game of the season kicks off this Sunday and it could be the biggest of Alex McLeish's time at the Huns (Sorry, lets keep it professional) Rangers. The Scot is threatened with the possibility of being sacked by the board after a poor performance against Russian team CSKA Moscow not to mention the utterly humiliating whitewash last season.

    Celtic go in to the game after an impressive opening three games and are looking to maintain their 100% early season record. Rangers however havn't enjoyed their opening few games so much, after an opening day draw with Dunfermline and some less than convincing wins over Livingston and Hibernian combined with the fact that the club will not take part in this seasons Champions League. Aswell as damaging Rangers reputation (If one was ever established) CSKA added to Rangers misery financially, a crippling blow to a club who are already in a dire financial state. Celtic could also go 5 points clear of Rangers with a win.

    New Celtic signing Juninho is thought to be taking part in the game after completing his move from Teeside to Glasgow, the player who has been widely regarded as the answer to Slovak legend Lubo Moravcik is set to take over the number 7 jersey left by Henrik Larsson. The Brazilian world cup winner comes with high expectations and is guarenteed to cause a thorn in any opposition this season. The confident midfielder has also stated that he thinks the Hoops could make it to the Champions League quarter finals ahead of todays draw in Monaco.

    "I think we can go through, but it will not be because of me or because of any other player,"he said. "Celtic did very well in the last Champions League and, with the team we have, we should go through to the last 16. This year, I think we have a great opportunity to go through to the last 16, and maybe even the last 8"

    Martin O'Neill however does have a few injury worries ahead of Sundays clash, Chris Sutton is thought to be a major doubt ahead of the match after pulling a hamstring in training on Saturday. Youngster Craig Beattie will definetley miss the game through injury, on the brighter side however both Jackie McNamara and Stan Varga are expected to be fit for Sundays match. Long term injuries Shaun Maloney and John Kennedy will also miss the match though Shaun is expected to be back in training sooner than originally thought.

    Player to Watch

    Nacho Novo

    We all know about the guy, supposedly rejecting us for the Huns however I believe that he will be our main threat this Sunday. The ex-Dundee man notched up an impressive goal tally last season finishing 3rd top scorer in the SPL behind Celtic duo Larsson and Sutton. The Spaniard hasn't impressed goal wise this season however he has been seen to be a very creative player and could cause our midfield and defense problems if he's on form. The 25 year old signed for Rangers in the summer for £450,000 after Celtic withdrew their offer. Many will see Rangers other hitman Dado Prso as the threat, however Dado relies much on almost bullying defenders and using brute strength to hold them off, he won't get so much luck on Sunday with Bobo and Varga and the heart of our defense.

    Likely line-up

    Im hoping Martin will go all out from the start and play our Brazilian wonder boy to give Rangers problems from the word go, other than that I cant see many suprises in the starting line-up except Camara replacing injured Chris Sutton.

    Note: I have just learned that Juninho will not start however he will feature at some point.

    (4-4-2)

    GK - Marshall

    RB - Agathe
    LB - McNamara
    CB - Balde
    CB - Varga

    RM - Petrov
    LM - Thompson
    CM - Lennon
    CM - McGeady

    CF - Hartson
    CF - Camara

    I'm sure the game will be a much closer encounter than any of the games last season, McLeish has made a few decent signings including Novo, Prso and Boumsong. I also think that it will be a much more physical encounter, with Boumsong at the back Rangers have more of a physical presence about them and I can perhaps see a few of them trying to rattle Camara in his first old firm game. There are bound to be a few heavy tackles early in the game but this all adds towards the old firm experience. Having watched the Huns a few times this season I haven't been overly impressed and have seen quite a few scuffles in the games, if we can stay clear of that and avoid any dismissals i'm sure we'll be fine. The guns will certainly be out for McLeish after an early exit from the Champions League and a lot of the orcs have been calling for his head, he won't hold anything back in the game as it could be his last and neither should we.. Mon the hoops!

    Selected match odds (Celtic win)

    William Hill - Evens
    Skybet - Evens
    Totesport - 10/11

    Celtic - Rangers-Head to Head

    Played: 360
    Celtic wins: 127
    Draws: 90
    Rangers wins: 143

    Last 5 meetings (Celtic park)

    Celtic 1-0 Rangers (8/5/04)
    Celtic 1-0 Rangers (7/3/04)
    Celtic 3-0 Rangers (3/1/04)
    Celtic 1-2 Rangers (16/3/03)
    Celtic 1-0 Rangers (8/3/03)

    BTG's Prediction: Celtic 2-1 Rangers