How Rangers will be confronted by the real Celtic alchemy of Kyogo Furuhashi for the first time this weekend

It is understandable for Rangers supporters to consider the aura projected onto Celtic’s alchemist attacker Kyogo Furuhashi to be framed by hype.

Kyogo Furuhashi is in fine form for Celtic ahead of facing Rangers.
Kyogo Furuhashi is in fine form for Celtic ahead of facing Rangers.

Since his £4.7million move from Vissel Kobe 13 months ago, the striker has appeared in three games against their team. Not only hasn’t he scored in the fixture, Celtic haven’t won a derby in which he has turned out, instead posting two losses and a draw. Yet, it is notable that in none of these fixtures did the real Furuhashi feature. The befuddler of defences has racked up 26 goals over a mere 38 outings for the Scottish champions, only 32 of these as starter. A player who, in being rested for the 4-1 Premier League Cup win over Ross County on Wednesday night, goes into the season’s first meeting of the ancient adversaries on a four-game scoring streak that is his longest in Celtic colours. And, courtesy of his hat-trick last Sunday in the 9-0 blootering of Dundee United, a predator boasting six goals in the past three-and-a-bit weeks.

All of which leads up to the fact that, in Glasgow’s east end on Saturday, for the first time Rangers will be required to quell a fit, fizzing and through-the-middle Furuhashi. This represents the holy trinity when it comes to the whizzing, wispish, whip-smart Japanese forward appearing anointed in opposition penalty areas.

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Ange Postecoglou has rarely conceded making the wrong call with his team selection across his time at the Celtic helm. The Australian did, though, over how he handled Furuhashi’s derby debut at Ibrox a year ago. That afternoon, he elected to play him out wide left to accommodate Odsonne Edouard as his central striker. When Rangers made it 1-0 in 66 minutes, he cut short Edouard’s last Celtic appearance to move Furuhashi inside. Seconds later, the Japanese international almost fashioned an equaliser, going close twice more as the Ibrox men held on for the win. Which left Postecoglou annoyed with himself, when explaining the substitution of the Frenchman.

"I just thought Kyogo would be much more of a threat down the middle, to be honest I probably should have started him there to begin with but obviously … we're a little bit short in the wide areas," he said. "That's why we started with him out to the left but I knew with his speed getting Kyogo in the middle was going to cause them problems.”

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Furuhashi’s hamstring problems that sidelined for the first three months of 2022 meant his second appearance against Rangers came as a 58th minute substitute in the 2-1 extra-time Scottish Cup semi-final success for Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men on April 17. It was only his second outing since the previous Boxing Day - a 16 minute run-out in a 7-0 bleaching of St Johnstone the week before proving to be his comeback game – and, by Jiminy, it showed. The 27-year-old looked rustier than a rivet on the Mary Rose, frankly, and was weeks away from finding any rhythm. More weeks, indeed, than when only his third start of the year was handed to him for Celtic’s hosting of Rangers on May 1. He may have netted in beginning the 2-0 win away to Ross County the previous weekend, but he didn’t have his trademark zip in a derby contest that ended 1-1. Indeed, it was no suprise he lasted only an hour before being replaced by Giorgos Giakoumakis as Postecoglou’s men edged closer to the title.

There are no such caveats when assessing the nick Furuhashi is in as the Ibrox side prepare to cross the city on Saturday. Arguably, he has never appeared cannier, sharper or more destructive across an already sparkling Celtic career. Yet, as long as it does not contain a significant, scoring showing against his club’s bitterest rivals, Furuhashi will know his stint in Scotland will be considered to lack one crucial facet.