Rangers hope to exploit Celtic 'malfunctions' - with one big selection poser to ponder

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard believes Celtic will pose a major threat to his team’s unbeaten record in this season’s Premiership when they visit Ibrox on Saturday.

Steven Gerrard is hoping to replicate the outcome of the first Old Firm game of the season last October when Rangers won 2-0 at Celtic Park. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Steven Gerrard is hoping to replicate the outcome of the first Old Firm game of the season last October when Rangers won 2-0 at Celtic Park. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

But Gerrard is hopeful he can deliver a strategy for his players which will enable them to take advantage of “malfunctions” in the performance of the reigning champions.

Rangers can stretch their lead in the title race over their Old Firm rivals to 19 points with a victory, having played three games more than Neil Lennon’s side.

Rangers: Get the latest team news, match previews and reports

Rangers: Get the latest team news, match previews and reports

Celtic will be significantly changed in terms of both personnel and formation from the line-up they fielded at Parkhead last October when Rangers recorded a comfortable 2-0 win in their first meeting of the campaign.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard greets Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths at the end of the Old Firm game at Parkhead in October. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

However, Gerrard is confident Rangers can also pose fresh questions of their opponents as he utilises players who were absent from his starting line-up that day.

“Every time we have faced Celtic, not just this season, we have always been faced with a challenge because they carry an enormous amount of threats,” said Gerrard.

“But every team has malfunctions and areas where you can try and execute your own game plan. So we are looking to try and provide a game plan which can do that.

“I think (changes in personnel and tactics) applies to both teams. We have players available to us now who didn’t play that day, such as Kemar Roofe and Joe Aribo.

“We expect Celtic’s team to be different as well. It is two good teams littered with good players. Both teams are desperate for the points for different reasons - Celtic want to claw it back, we want to stretch our lead.

“That’s what makes it really fascinating and exciting going into the game. That’s the reason we are looking forward to it. The quicker it starts, the better.”

While many observers believe a victory for Rangers will be a decisive blow in their quest to win their first title in a decade, Gerrard is adamant that will not be a perspective shared inside their dressing room.

“No, not at all,” he added. “I’d be very happy with the three points but I would remain balanced and humble with my feet on the ground.

“It’s January, there’s many tough challenges ahead and hurdles we need to get over.

“So whatever the result is, we will move forward in the best possible way. We obviously want to do all we can to try and take this opportunity.

“We want to stretch our lead, of course we do. But if we manage to do that, then certainly no one will be getting carried away.”

Gerrard’s main selection issue appears to be whether Ianis Hagi retains his place in attack after impressive recent displays.

“He has made a really strong case,” admits Gerrard. “So have all of the front players, really.

“I’ve got to make big decisions and big calls for the sake of the team.

“But Ianis has been extremely strong in his performances. We are delighted to have him here and he is going to get many more opportunities moving forward.

“I know my team but obviously it doesn’t make sense for me to give any clues away. But all of the front players are pushing to start and probably have a case."

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