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Rangers 0-2 Celtic: 3 talking points from the Old Firm Derby as Gerrard’s tactics failed miserably

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Rangers 0-2 Celtic: 3 talking points from the Old Firm Derby

Celtic completely outclassed Rangers 2-0 at Ibrox in the Scottish Premiership on Sunday as Odsonne Edouard’s opener in the first half and a second from substitute Jonny Hayes in injury-time ensured that the Hoops strengthened their position at the top of the table. 

Having secured qualification to the group stages of the Europa League with impressive victories in the playoffs, both the Old Firm rivals went into the game on Sunday brimming with confidence, but it was Celtic who laid down an early title marker in the first derby of the season. 

Steven Gerrard opted to leave Europa League playoff hero Alfredo Morelos on the bench, with Jerman Defoe getting the nod as the No.9 in the derby. Additionally, the Gers went in with a very narrow and compact 4-3-3 system, flooding the central areas with more players at the expense of some genuine width. 

Neil Lennon, on the other hand, brought in Hatem Abd Elhamed in place of the injured Kristoffer Ajer at right-back, with Celtic fielding a completely new look backline in the derby as compared to the previous campaign. 

It wasn’t the most aesthetic game that you would ever see and after an opening half-hour where chances were few and far between, Mikey Johnstone outsmarted Conor Goldson to set it up for Odsonne Edouard, who scored his fifth goal against Rangers to put the Hoops 1-0 up.

To say that Rangers were below-par for almost the entirety of the game would not be an understatement, as the Gers failed to muster any sort of a meaningful reply after conceding that goal. Substitutes Sheyi Ojo and Morelos somewhat improved them in the second half but it was never going to be enough to break Celtic down.

Jonny Hayes took his chance really well in the third minute of injury time before the game ended, with Jordan Jones receiving a straight card for a cynical hack on Moritz Bauer. Here are 3 key talking points from the Old Firm derby.

1. Edouard made the difference again

Odsonne Edouard’s opener at Ibrox on Sunday was the Frenchman’s fifth goal against the Gers and the second time that he scored the winner on enemy territory.

The Frenchman wasn’t always in the game but he contributed a lot with his clever touches and smart hold-up play, gratefully accepting the only clear-cut chance the fell to him in the game.

Edouard’s winner at Ibrox was reminiscent of the big-game specialism that Moussa Dembele used to showcase during his illustrious spell at Celtic and his latest goal would definitely have raised his stocks amongst the fans. 

2. Steven Gerrard’s tactical blunder and lack of energy from Rangers

Rangers’ approach to the game resembled a funnel, as Gerrard compromised some genuine width to flood the central areas of the pitch with a view to blocking the passing lanes and frustrating Celtic. 

One would have expected Gerrard to field some out-and-out pacey wingers to capitalise on Celtic’s rather unsettled backline but neither Scott Arfield nor Joe Aribo did enough to put the defenders under any real pressure. 

Defoe was largely anonymous due to a lack of supply and while substitutes Ojo and Morelos breathed life into the game, Rangers apparently never had the energy to press Celtic off the ball and get themselves back into the game. 

James Tavernier and Glen Kamara, who are usually very influential in their respective roles, looked completely off the pace, ineffective and lethargic, whilst centre-back Goldson came up with one of his worst ever performances for the Gers.

It was a combination of tired legs after a hard-fought playoff victory in the Europa League playoffs and some poor reading of the game by Gerrard that led to Rangers’ downfall on Sunday. 

3. Celtic’s backline rose to the occasion very well

The back four consisting of Elhamed, Christopher Jullien, Nir Bitton and Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo exceeded all expectations and while Rangers played it into their hands to some extent with some poor tactical nous and below-par attacking play, the Celtic defenders deserve all the credit for a well-earned clean sheet.

Apart from Bitton, the other three defenders at the back had their first taste of the derby atmosphere this Sunday and Neil Lennon would have been happy to see them rise to the occasion and deliver the goods when it mattered the most.

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Celtic

[Image] Predicted 4-3-3 Celtic FC XI to face AIK in the Europe League playoffs – can the Hoops secure the win?

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Predicted 4-3-3 Celtic FC XI to face AIK in the Europe League playoffs

Celtic FC romped home to a comfortable 3-1 victory over Hearts at home in the Scottish Premiership on Sunday as Callum McGregor’s strike in the second half sandwiched by own goals from Christophe Berra and Craig Halkett ensured that the Hoops preserved their perfect start to the campaign. 

Celtic’s Champions League aspirations came to an end with a 5-4 aggregate defeat against Romanian giants Cluj in the third qualifying round but they have a chance to make it to the group stages of the Europa League after beating Swedish outfit AIK 2-0 away from home last week. 

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Neil Lennon’s side will be the clear favourites to make it through to the group stages, as they carry a two-goal lead to Sweden on Thursday night. 

Team News

Neil Lennon is expected to make a few changes to the eleven that played against Hearts on Sunday, with the Old Firm derby against Rangers in the waiting too. 

Celtic travel to Sweden with a few injury concerns, as Hatem Abd Elhamed, Scott Bain and Tom Rogic are expected to miss the trip. However, the manager is likely to have most of the first-team players at his disposal for selection.

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Predicted Celtic XI

Formation: 4-3-3

Fraser Forster (GK)

The towering shot-stopper was catapulted into the starting eleven against Hearts upon his return to Parkhead and he is expected to start ahead of Craig Gordon between the sticks.

Kristoffer Ajer (RB)

The Norwegian has been a real revelation at right-back in recent games and he is likely to continue in that role on Thursday. 

Christopher Jullien (CB)

The Frenchman has proven himself to be worthy of every penny for the Hoops so far this season and there is no reason why he should be left out of the away leg despite the Old Firm derby around the corner. 

Jozo Simunovic (CB)

Nir Bitton started at the back on Sunday against Hearts but the Croatian is expected to get the nod after a calm and composed display in the 2-0 first-leg victory.  

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Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo (LB)

The new signing excelled with his pace, energy and link-up play down the flanks in the first leg and he is expected to be handed another start on Thursday. 

Scott Brown (CM)

The veteran is usually the one who controls the game for Celtic in the middle of the park and his experience might prove to be a deciding factor in the all-important clash.

James Forrest (RAM)

One of Celtic’s most influential players over the past few years, the Scottish international is the club’s indispensable weapon down the flanks and he will be in high spirits after scoring in the 2-0 victory in the first leg. 

Callum McGregor (LAM)

The homegrown star was one of the standout performers against the Swedish opposition last week and he is expected to be one of the first names on the teamsheet this time around as well.

Ryan Christie (RW)

The attacking midfielder tormented the Swedes with his tireless running, energy and creativity in the first leg and he definitely deserves another start. 

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Mikey Johnstone (LW)

The youngster has produced some dazzling displays early in the campaign and he was virtually unplayable against AIK last week.

Odsonne Edouard (ST)

Vakoun Issouf Bayo started against Hearts but Celtic’s first-choice No.9 should be back in the starting eleven on Thursday.

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Griffiths and Bayo to lead the line? Predicted 3-4-1-2 Celtic XI to face Dunfermline Athletic in the Betfred Cup

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Celtic FC vs Dunfermline Athletic prediction: Celtic FC line-up

Celtic will host Dunfermline Athletic in the Betfred Cup on Saturday after a shock defeat at the hands of Romanian outfit CFR Cluj saw their Champions League dreams come to an end.

It’s been a difficult couple of days to get through so far but the Hoops have to bounce back with a convincing victory over Dunfermline Athletic to change the mood.

Neil Lennon could ring the changes for the weekend’s Betfred Cup tie.

Team News

Goalkeeper Scott Bain picked up a hand injury during the loss against Cluj but finished the game. However, he has now been ruled out for upto two months.

Probable Celtic XI

Formation: 3-4-1-2

Manager: Neil Lennon

Craig Gordon (GK)

With Bain out injured, Gordon naturally comes back in goal for Saturday’s game.

Christopher Jullien (RCB)

Jullien, surprisingly, didn’t start in the embarrassing loss to Cluj. However, he is expected to come back into Lennon’s starting XI.

Nir Bitton (CB)

Like Jullien, Bitton was an unused substitute in the last game. With the Europa League play-off game against AIK coming up, Lennon could freshen things up by handing Bitton a start.

Kristoffer Ajer (LCB)

Ajer struggled against Cluj’s attackers on Tuesday but Lennon is expected to stick with the towering Norwegian.

Anthony Ralston (RWB)

With Hatem Abd Elhamed yet to fully get into the grips of the Scottish league, the Celtic boss could hand an opportunity to Anthony Ralston on the right.

Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo (LWB)

Bolingoli has looked unconvincing at the back following his summer move from Austria Vienna. But he could be handed a chance to impress at left wing-back against Dunfermline.

Scott Brown (CM)

Celtic’s leader on and off the pitch, Brown continues to play every game for the club under Lennon, and should start.

Olivier Ntcham (CM)

Though the partnership Ntcham and Brown didn’t work out against Cluj, Lennon could go with the same pair on Saturday.

Ryan Christie (CAM)

Christie will add creativity and a punch of guile to the team. He will be raring to get on the score-sheet again.

Leigh Griffiths (LS)

With the Europa League game against AIK on the horizon, Lennon could freshen up his attack by bringing in Griffiths in place of Edouard.

Vakoun Issouf Bayo (RS)

Vakoun Issouf Bayo has struggled with fitness since joining the club in January. However, Lennon should give the pacey Ivorian a proper outing at home in the Betfred Cup game.

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Comparing the transfer approach of Neil Lennon and Brendan Rodgers at Celtic

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Comparing the transfer approach of Neil Lennon and Brendan Rodgers at Celtic

It has all been one-way traffic in the Scottish Premiership over the past eight seasons or so, with Celtic establishing themselves as the undisputed powerhouses in Scotland ever since the financial crisis at Ibrox hit Rangers hard on the face.

With Rangers failing to reinstate their challenge for trophies following their return to the top-flight in 2016, Celtic’s unparalleled dominance has reigned supreme in recent years.

Neil Lennon, who returned to the club for his first managerial stint in 2010, and then Brendan Rodgers, who took charge in 2016, guided the Hoops to eight straight domestic titles, albeit Ronny Delia was also at the helm of affairs for a while prior to Rodgers’ arrival.

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Celtic won three back-to-back Scottish domestic titles under Lennon but it was under Rodgers that they completed the historic ‘treble treble’, starting from the 2016-17 to 2018-19 season, thus marking one of the most glorious periods ever in the club’s history.

Rodgers certainly achieved a lot more on the pitch when compared to his predecessors before leaving for Leicester City in February 2019, only to be replaced by club-legend and former manager Neil Lennon.

Well, it is a no-brainer that Rodgers gave the fans at Parkhead a lot to cheer about and while the Hoops never really made much of an impact in the European competitions, they hardly left any silverware on the domestic front unconquered, ranging from the league title to the Scottish Cup and the Scottish League Cup.

The critics might argue that there wasn’t enough competition to halt Celtic’s juggernaut under Rodgers but that kind of dominance was truly phenomenal, nevertheless.

However, with all due respect to whatever Rodgers achieved on the pitch, it would be fair to say that his approach in the transfer window was a lot different from Lennon’s and didn’t really work in accordance with the club’s structure and organisation.

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A look back at Neil Lennon’s recruitment policy from his first managerial stint at Celtic

To justify this statement, let us look at the kind of change that Neil Lennon brought about at Parkhead when he took over as the permanent manager prior to the start of the 2010-11 season.

Seemingly unhappy with the commitment levels of the existing set of players at the club, Lennon opted for a massive squad overhaul and plucked out some relatively unknown and unproven players from the far corners of the world.

The summer of 2010 saw the arrival of players like Beram Kayal, Emilio Izaguirre and Gary Hooper for thrifty amounts, while experienced and proven veterans like Cha Du-Ri, Daniel Majstorovic, Charlie Mulgrew, as well as Joe Ledley, all came through the door on free transfers.

Fraser Forster was also brought in on loan from Newcastle and later signed permanently, with the towering English shot-stopper going on to set a record for clean-sheets in Scottish football. 

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All the aforementioned players went on to earn plenty of plaudits for their impressive displays and most of them established themselves as mainstays of the club’s first-team for years to come.

Adam Matthews and Mikael Lustig were signed on free transfers in the summer of 2011 and we all witnessed the kind of impact that they had in the subsequent campaigns.

Not to mention Victor Wanyama, who arrived as a complete rookie from Belgian outfit Beerschot in the same transfer window. Celtic pulled off another massive bargain in the January window with the signing of playmaker Kristian Commons from Derby County.

Equally, Lennon’s expertise in the transfer market saw Celtic bring in the likes of Tom Rogic and Efe Ambrose in the summer of 2012. Both players went on to establish themselves as the key driving forces behind Celtic’s dominance.

Just to remind the fans, Virgil van Dijk arrived at Celtic from Dutch club Groningen in the summer of 2013 when Lennon was in charge and we all know what followed.

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Celtic were pretty much in the driver’s seat on the domestic front by then and the January transfer window witnessed Lennon pull off another masterstroke with the signing of Leigh Griffiths from Wolves.

Well, he might not be at the top of his game any longer but his monumentous feat of scoring 31 goals in the 2015-16 league campaign is still likely to be fresh in the memories of the fans.

How Rodgers went about things in the market

Now, let us shift our focus to how Brendan Rodgers went about things in the transfer window.

It is obvious that each manager has his own way of building a squad when he takes charge of a new club and the motive of this discussion is not to criticise Rodgers’ transfer dealings during his glorious spell at Parkhead but to simply focus on the completely different approach that he adopted in the market.

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As opposed to Lennon, who had to put in a lot of work in order to assemble a new-looking Celtic unit back in 2010-11, Rodgers inherited a good set of proven and established players at the club.

That, however, didn’t stop him from making a few signings in his first summer, as the former Liverpool boss brought in the likes of Kristoffer Ajer, Moussa Dembele and Scott Sinclair.

Both Dembele and Ajer proved to be massive bargains for Celtic, with the latter still very much a key figure at the back, whilst Sinclair is still racking up the goals and assists in the top-flight.

Rodgers’ first flop signing turned out to be Ivorian midfielder Eboue Kouassi, who arrived from Russian club Krasnodar in January 2017 for a fee of £2.8million. Kouassi’s stint at Celtic has proven to be an ill-fated one, with recurrent injuries and inconsistencies stalling the Ivorian’s progress at Parkhead. 

Looking at Celtic’s dealings in the summer of 2017, Olivier Ntcham arrived from Man City for £4.5million as a marquee signing, while his teammate Patrick Roberts also joined on loan.

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Both of them would go on to have contrasting futures at Parkhead, with Roberts taking Scottish football by storm and proving himself to be an influential figure in the club’s attacking ranks, whereas Ntcham faded away after a promising start.

One cannot help but feel that Celtic haven’t really got the most out of the money that they had spent to bring Ntcham to the club despite the Frencham teasing the fans with his glimpses of brilliance.

Odsonne Edouard, who had initially arrived on loan from PSG, went on to become a fan favourite due to his goalscoring exploits in the 2017-18 campaign but Rodgers took everyone by surprise when he convinced the board to splash out a club-record £9million to sign the French striker permanently in the summer of 2018.

Also, the acquisition of Marvin Compper in January hardly made any sense given that the German didn’t play any significant role in the remaining games, whilst £1.5million was probably too much to spend on Jack Hendry, who came in as a future prospect at Parkhead.

The marked difference between the two

Well, these figures might seem like a drop in the ocean to the fans in the Premier League but in all honesty, money doesn’t flow the same way north of the border and those kinds of transfer fees are still considered as massive in the Scottish top-flight.

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Undoubtedly, both Rodgers and Lennon have been successful managers at Celtic, but the main question is – has the latter shown a greater level of acumen, wisdom and shrewdness in his transfer dealings?

To put things into perspective, it is a no-brainer that Lennon brought success to Celtic by spending a significantly less amount of cash as compared to Rodgers.

Lennon, who had carved out a big reputation for bringing in quality players on free transfers and for thrifty amounts during his first managerial stint at Parkhead, apparently has a good knowledge of the lower leagues and we have seen over the years that very few of his transfers have failed to pay the dividends.

It is clear that Rodgers spent quite a lot even on project players, the latest of them being the likes of Maryan Shved and Vakoun Issouf Bayo in January 2019, while Lennon always seems to know somebody who would come in for the same amount of money and play a big part in the first-team right away without spending too much time on the bench. And that kind of an approach certainly suits Celtic a lot more.

What Edouard has achieved at Celtic is similar to the heroics of Alfredo Morelos at Rangers, leaving many to wonder whether the Hoops could have brought in a player of the same quality for a much lower fee.

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Has Edouard matched the exploits of Gary Hooper and Leigh Griffiths? Likewise, has Ntcham bettered the returns of someone like Kris Commons in a Celtic shirt?

Well, that hasn’t been the case so far. While the French pair does have the quality to go on and hit great heights in the future, one should not forget that the two other players mentioned above arrived at Celtic for ridiculously low transfer fees when Lennon was in charge.

Yes, it is true that Lennon has also opted to spend big on Christopher Jullien and Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo this summer but that can be seen as a desperate measure given that the Hoops were struggling to find replacements for the likes of Benkovic, Boyata, Lustig, Gamboa and Izaguirre.

Maybe Neil Lennon knows that it is impossible to cope with so many departures without splashing the cash.

All in all, Lennon has proven himself to be a shrewd operator in the transfer market when compared to Rodgers, and that makes him a better fit for Celtic’s structure and organisation.

He lives and breathes the culture at Parkhead and there can’t really be anyone better than him to take the club forward.

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