The Celtic vulnerability Rangers will look to take advantage of in Old Firm clash

From the start of the season there have been questions raised about the Celtic defence. Yet, with just seven games of the Premiership season remaining, and going into Sunday’s Old Firm clash, Ange Postecoglou's men sit top of the league with the best defensive record in the league.

With only 18 goals given up, they concede just 0.54 per 90 minutes. Their domination of the ball – no team has a better average share of possession than their 67.8 per cent – helps them control games and keeps pressure away from their defensive third. In addition, no team gives the ball away less.

The pressure Celtic put on the ball is more intense than any other team with opponents on average allowed just 6.71 passes per defensive action. The league average is 9.86.

Only rivals Rangers have given up fewer shots, 179 to 190.

The last time Rangers and Celtic met at Ibrox the home side won thanks to a set-piece goal. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Yet, despite Celtic's excellent work on and off the ball they do possess a vulnerability. It’s one which Rangers have already taken advantage of this season when Filip Helander headed in a Borna Barisic corner in the 1-0 success at Ibrox.

In terms of goals conceded, no Premiership side has conceded a greater percentage from set pieces than the league leaders. And it isn't even close.

Of the 18 goals shipped by Celtic, ten have come from a corner, free-kick or long throw. That’s 55.6 per cent. The next team on the list? Rangers with seven of their 25 goals (28 per cent) coming from such situations.

One of the intriguing factors going into Sunday's encounter is whether Giovanni van Bronckhorst will play with a back four or centre-back trio.

That 55.6 per cent stat could play a pivotal role in Rangers’ set-up.

Van Bronckhorst may view getting Calvin Bassey, Connor Goldson and one of Leon Balogun or Filip Helander all into the side with James Tavernier and Borna Barisic could give them a greater threat from set pieces.

All ten of Celtic's conceded goals from set pieces have come from the opposition getting first contact with the ball. On nine occasions it is a case of that first contact being the goal itself.

The other was the last one conceded at Livingston when a long throw was nodded into the six-yard box and bundled in.

That is something which should be of concern to Postecoglou and his coaching staff. Goals haven’t been coming from second phases of play after a set piece has been cleared or from the ball bouncing about the penalty area, but from crosses being met largely at the six-yard box. Seven of the ten goals have arrived from the edge of that very area.

There was Ross McCrorie towering above Greg Taylor at Pittodrie at the front post and Ryan Porteous running onto a Joe Newell corner in the middle of the box. Christian Ramirez made a simple run from the back post to the middle unchecked then there was Danny Mullen easily getting away to steer in a corner with two players watching the Dundee player do so.

Is it the avenue in which Rangers can break down the best defence in the league?

What percentage of goals do teams conceded from set pieces?

Aberdeen - 9 of 39 - 23.1%

Celtic - 10 of 18 - 55.6%

Dundee - 10 of 53 - 18.9%

Dundee United - 5 of 34 - 14.7%

Hearts - 5 of 31 - 16.1%

Hibs - 8 of 32 - 25%

Livingston - 8 of 39 - 20.5%

Motherwell - 10 of 46 - 21.7%

Rangers - 7 of 25 - 28%

Ross County - 10 of 51 - 19.6%

St Johnstone - 4 of 37 - 10.8%

St Mirren - 8 of 41 - 19.5%

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