Rangers host Celtic at Ibrox for the first time since January 2011 as the Glasgow derby stages its oft-traditional Hogmanay fixture.
Their Saturday morning tussle may bring the New Year’s bells ever closer but it is hard to envisage there will be much sense of ‘out with the old and in with the new’ around Ibrox.
It perhaps tells much about the Scottish Premiership right now that Celtic are odds-on 20/27 to win at the home of their fiercest rivals. Moreover, it’s very hard not to imagine that Brendan Rodgers’ side are decent value at that price.
Celtic have routinely swept aside the domestic opposition so far. Rodgers’ team are now within touching distance of equalling the club’s ‘Lisbon Lions’ class of 1966-67 that went 26 domestic matches unbeaten at the start of the season – they stand on 23 ahead of this game.
The Parkhead boss has spoken in the build-up to this latest skirmish with Rangers of how he believes his side can improve going into 2017. They may be 16 points clear, but Rodgers isn’t ready to rest.
Opposite number Mark Warburton meanwhile has used the build-up to suggest that he and Rangers should be judged at season’s end.
Rangers return to the top flight will no doubt lead to their growing over time but, for now, they are lagging some way behind Celtic.
That has been borne out in two meetings so far. Celtic ran out 5-1 winners at Parkhead in September while their 1-0 League Cup success at Hampden Park the following month could easily have been by more.
Rangers are unbeaten in 10 home league games, but they’ve failed to win in six of those games. Whatever option Rodgers goes with in attack, he’ll have a striker with a promise of goals in Leigh Griffiths or Moussa Dembele.
The latter has netted four in two appearances against Rangers, while Griffiths has been making the most of his recent run in the team. Backing whichever forward gets the nod to start in the anytime scorer market is a clever play.
Perhaps the value bet in the goalscorer market is Stuart Armstrong, 29/10 to score any time. The Celtic midfielder has six goals in his eight most recent league starts and his powerful runs into the box have become key to this team.
Results have improved for Rangers recently and they now look a decent bet to finish ‘best of the rest’ behind Celtic in the league.
Much of the talk after these sides met in October surrounded the perceived gulf in class. Celtic have been top of the domestic pile by some distance since Rodgers took over, much more so than at any stage under Ronny Deila.
They’ve not been scoring as freely in recent times but amid the blood and thunder of derby day at Ibrox, their appetite should return.
An early goal could turn this into a very long day for Rangers. Celtic -1 is 9/5 and Rodgers’ Bhoys have the tools to ensure they rubberstamp their domestic dominance with a convincing win.
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