Old Firm renew league rivalry

It would be a tough task convincing any Glaswegian that a Celtic versus Rangers Old Firm derby has any serious rival in world football - such is the intensity level that accompanies a clash between the Scottish giants.

So for sheer unconfined fervour, whatever the folk of Manchester may think, Parkhead may well be the place to be on Saturday as Celtic play arch-rivals Rangers in the league for the first time since 2012.

Rangers' spiral into financial chaos and demotion to Scotland's lower divisions left the Scottish Premiership bereft of its standout fixture while Rangers scrapped their way back out of the wilderness to their rightful place.

The completion of that journey means business has returned to normal and they meet on Saturday with Celtic and Rangers occupying the top two spots.

Celtic won the last league clash 3-0 in 2012, going on to claim the first of five consecutive titles.

But with 54-times champion Rangers back in the top flight their domination is under threat.

Bookmakers say they expect 2,000 bets per minute on the match in which Rangers are 9-2 outsiders.

"The intensity needs to be there in your game but you also need to have the cool mind to think in the game tactically," Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers said on Friday.

"Experience tells me that the teams who play with that coolness and composure can come through and play well as it's important to perform well."

Rangers, who beat Celtic on penalties to reach the Scottish Cup final last year, have only one player surviving from the last league clash between the sides, skipper Lee Wallace.

Their squad has been overhauled on a shoestring budget by manager Mark Warburton with only two players costing more than one million pounds, one of them Wallace.

After that it is a mixture of recruits from smaller Scottish clubs, youngsters and free transfers such as former Manchester City midfielder Joey Barton.

The outspoken Barton has caused a stir since arriving north of the border - directing some mischievous comments towards Rodgers as well as Celtic captain Scott Brown.

"People keep talking about Scott Brown v Joey Barton," Barton has said. "He's not even in my league. He's nowhere near the level of player I am. He can't get near me."

Warburton was more keen to quell any rising tension in a fixture that has in the past stoked religious divides.

"We understand the emotions and the significance of the game to so many people in Glasgow," he said.

"We have an important part to play. To play the game in the right manner and with the right discipline - fully committed of course, but to make sure we behave ourselves impeccably."

 

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