Our writers give their predictions ahead of Saturday’s big match at Ibrox.
Craig Fowler: Rangers are limping towards the January transfer window. The supporting attackers haven’t played well enough in recent weeks, while the defence, much praised at the beginning of the campaign, has become increasingly leaky as the season has gone on. Celtic always turn it on in the big matches and a hat-trick from Scott Sinclair against Aberdeen may have woken up one of the most threatening players in the league from a year-long slumber. Prediction: Alfredo Morelos to break his Old Firm hoodoo but Celtic still to win.
Patrick McPartlin: Celtic haven’t looked back since their 2-0 loss away to Hibs, scoring ten goals and conceding three - two penalties and a goal from a corner. Rangers on the other hand, have registered two draws and a narrow win away from home, so momentum would appear to be with the Hoops. On top of that, the Celtic players nearly always manage to turn it up a notch for crucial matches such as this, and the likes of Sinclair and Odsonne Edouard will be looking to build on their performance against Aberdeen by putting their rivals to the sword. Rangers aren’t beyond a goal, particularly if Morelos turns up, but I don’t think the Light Blues defence will be a match for a Celtic forward line eager to record another derby victory. Prediction: Celtic win
Stephen Halliday: A draining and demanding December fixture schedule for both clubs has clearly been handled more effectively by Celtic so far and it’s difficult to see Brendan Rodgers’ men leaving Ibrox with anything less than a point. With their greater experience of the Old Firm clashes and consistent ability to rise to the bigger occasions, the champions will be primed and eager to strike a telling blow in the title race. For Steven Gerrard, rousing his battle-weary players for one last supreme effort before the winter break represents one of the biggest tests of his Rangers tenure so far. Prediction: Draw.
Joel Sked: Ibrox is going to be some place to be on Saturday afternoon. The final fixture of the year, the chance for Rangers to go into the New Year and winter break level on points with Celtic at the top of the table. Parkhead is renowned for its atmosphere but the one created at Ibrox is more sustained and more raucous: it’s better. That being said it is difficult seeing this Celtic team getting spooked by such a trivial aspect. This is a team who have been there and done it consistently under Brendan Rodgers. When a big games come around they arrive early, fully prepared and get the job done. A job well done could even be a draw. They only have the fourth best away record in the league, Rangers will be raring despite recent struggles and a point keeps ensures distance for the restart of the league in January. That being said this is an encounter where Celtic will spot an opportunity to lay down a marker and ease to the three points. 2-0 Celtic.
Andrew Smith: The law of averages dictates that Rangers must be able to avoid defeat at home to Celtic at some point. In winning on all four of his visits to Ibrox, Brendan Rodgers, statistically, has found his club’s ancient adversaries an easier touch on their own patch than a whole host of other teams in the Scottish game. Celtic don’t boast a 10 per cent record away to Hearts, Kilmarnock, Hibernian – losing at all three grounds - Motherwell, Livingston, Dundee, St Mirren, Ross County and Inverness under the Irishman. To Rangers’ anguish, the Scottish champions unquestionably respond to the big occasion, and will relish having the opportunity to do so in a game where they have been denied being watched by all but a small knot of their own followers. Moreover, set against Gerrard’s acknowledged over-reliance on the goals of Morelos, Celtic possess a dizzying array of players who regularly provide match-winning contributions. That contrast could easily see Rangers supporters enduring an unlucky 13th successive derby wherein their team fail to prevail. Rangers 1 Celtic 2.