Having made a scoring return to the Celtic starting line-up this week, Scott Sinclair has already turned his attention towards the clash with Rangers on Hogmanay.
The winger expects a hostile atmosphere at Ibrox but says players thrive on the “hatred” that surrounds such fixtures.
Sinclair, who missed three and a half weeks with a hamstring injury, scored the only goal of the game against Partick Thistle on Tuesday to stretch Celtic’s lead at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership to 14 points.
He is now joint highest league scorer in the top flight with ten goals as Celtic embark on a busy festive period that will see them play three games in eight days.
Brendan Rodgers’ side face Hamilton on Christmas Eve and Ross County on 28 December but Sinclair is already focusing on the eagerly anticipated meeting with Rangers on the last day of the year. The former Aston Villa forward scored in the 5-1 win over Mark Warburton’s side at Celtic Park in September and relished the visceral nature of his first Glasgow derby.
“It’s great,” he said. “It’s great for all footballers – the hatred and that all the fans don’t like you.
“We will have all our fans behind us and that’s the whole point of being a footballer – that excitement and atmosphere when you go to stadiums like that.
“You can’t hear the other players on the pitch, it’s so loud and hostile. You can’t even hear your team-mates but it’s great. There is a difference with these types of games. They are massive. It’s such a big occasion.”
Sinclair has experienced the Swansea-Cardiff derby and was on the bench for Manchester City when they played United but he believes the Glasgow version takes top billing.
The all-Welsh clash is not for shrinking violets, mind you, and was once moved to a morning kick-off in a bid to defuse potential trouble. Sinclair, who spent two seasons at Swansea, says it pales next to the Rangers game.
“I played against Cardiff for Swansea but nothing compares to the derbies up here. I played home and away in the Welsh game. It doesn’t compare. We had the early morning kick-offs but it doesn’t come close to Celtic-Rangers.
“All derbies are hostile but it’s not as hostile as this one. I was on the bench against Manchester United for Manchester City but I didn’t get on [and] we lost.”
Although they are still winning, Celtic’s form has dipped in recent matches as Rodgers has utilised his squad and given fringe players a run out. Sinclair believes they can switch back on to top form for Ibrox as they look to extend their unbeaten domestic run.
“Yeah, we can,” he said. “The manager had made changes and freshened things up, and we have the squad to do that.
“The run is great. It was a little bit of a grind against Partick. We didn’t really play as well as we normally do. But we will look at all the negatives and positives and take it game by game.”