Rangers manager Mark Warburton has revealed the Old Firm odds and pundit predictions featured heavily in their squad meeting ahead of Saturday’s Celtic Park clash.
Celtic are odds-on favourites for the Ladbrokes Premiership encounter while Rangers are approaching 5/1 with some bookmakers.
The champions have started their season on a high, reaching the Champions League group stages and topping the Premiership table despite playing a game less than Rangers, who have won twice and drawn twice in the league.
Celtic have netted 19 goals in five home matches this season but Warburton was quick to point out that Rangers belied their underdog status during last season’s William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final.
Warburton said: “If you read the bookies’ odds, there is no point us really turning up, which is fine.
“It’s exactly the same scenario (as semi-final). We had analysis with the players just now and it’s been pointed out by many of them: same scenario, we are going to get beaten by three or four. I read four minimum, one very wise pundit said.
“They are paid to give opinions, that’s what the game is all about, so you respect that. But it’s about us, it’s about Rangers, it’s about doing what we do.
“If we go there and we’re brave and we get on the football and we move it quickly and do what we do well, we will be fine. If we don’t, if we’re sloppy, then we will have a tough afternoon.
“It’s about us preparing well and being consistent in our preparation, training at the right intensity and quality, which we have been. It’s a tough place to go but we are absolutely relishing this encounter.”
Warburton denied the Hampden win in April had been all the sweeter because they had been written off in some quarters.
“That would suggest that we doubted the quality of the players,” he said. “We never did. We had no doubts that we could win the semi-final at all.
“We went into that game as huge underdogs and we knew what we could do. And we delivered it. And we go into this weekend in exactly the same way.”
Celtic have undergone major changes since then, mostly in the dugout where Brendan Rodgers has stamped his authority after Ronny Deila appeared to lose his. They have also added the likes of Scott Sinclair and Kolo Toure but Warburton does not see it as a particularly different challenge.
“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I think it’s the same. He has added a few players. I said to you when Brendan came in, he is a good organiser and he will absolutely look to organise Celtic and get them playing in a positive manner, and that has proven to be the case.
“But we can’t control things away from here, we just look at Rangers. We are getting better, the squad are gelling really well, and I’m delighted with the quality of training.”
Warburton repeated an assertion that the game is only worth three points and the importance should not be overstated in the context of the league season.
But he recognises that the fixture has a major impact on many lives, a fact which was reinforced by his Hampden experience in April.
“You learn the passion, you learn the media build-up in the week before,” the former Brentford manager said. “Kick-off is almost a relief from the media aspect of it.
“But you know the significance to the city must never be forgotten for both sets of fans. Fans around the world look at this fixture.
“We are aware of the responsibility we have as players and staff and the players will relish it, I have no doubt about that.”