Rangers might have fallen short in their targets this season but Steven Gerrard’s men can still succeed as no Ibrox team has since 2011-12. That was the last season that the club won both home games against Celtic – an opportunity open to them in Govan this afternoon courtesy of the December derby win at the stadium.
It would hardly be the cause to get the bunting out of the trophy-less Blue Room, especially with Celtic a Scottish Cup final victory shy of a remarkable treble treble, but it would be a tangible measure of progress following the beatings handed out to Rangers sides by their rivals at various intervals over the previous two seasons.
To usurp Celtic, Rangers must compete with them in their match-ups – as they have so far this season, with only one goal separating the sides in the three derbies. If the Ibrox men were to take something from today’s game it would demonstrate that they are far from the supine opponent they have been in the previous two seasons which produced thumping victories for Celtic, with two 5-1s, one 5-0, and one 4-0 across an 11-game unbeaten run.
Gerrard believes Rangers’ credibility, and more, has been restored in the eyes of their bitter foes. “The plan is to beat Celtic again on Sunday. It would be a good result and make the fans happy. But as a staff we’ll analyse every game this season,” he said. “Of course, it’s better to finish second instead of third a year ago. [And] the Old Firm games were very one-sided before I came in.
“A lot of Rangers fans watched those previous derbies from behind the couch. So we’ve got some belief back. Players have more confidence and they feel they can go toe-to-toe with Celtic. That’s good, it’s important that the players have that.
“You’d have to ask Celtic if they fear us more now than they did before. But speaking to Brendan Rodgers in Dubai during the winter break, I certainly got that impression. Listening to their interviews and reading between the lines, I think there’s a lot more respect for this Rangers team and squad now.
“We shocked them in that December game and it hurt them for a while because there was a big break after it. So I expect a better Celtic on Sunday, one that’s fired up and who show Rangers a level of respect. We’ve earned that by showing that we’re game for this challenge.”