We give our opinion on which players Mark Warburton should trust to get a result at Celtic Park
GK - Wes Foderingham
There’s no good reason to chuck Matt Gilks into an Old Firm derby for his first league start as a Rangers player. Foderingham hasn’t been at fault for any of the goals his team have conceded so far this season, and he’s made some decent saves to boot.
DR - James Tavernier; DC - Rob Kiernan; DC - Danny Wilson; DL - Lee Wallace
Assuming all of them are fit - Wallace is expected to make it, though Wilson is touch-and-go - this is the back four that helped Rangers defeat Celtic in last season’s Scottish Cup semi-final and they should get the chance to help repeat the feat. While it is undoubtedly a flawed unit, there has been little to suggest it’s been improved by the summer signings. Rangers haven’t looked any more resolute with Clint Hill in the side, and fans are sceptical whether Philippe Senderos will fare any better.
The visitors may adopt a different gameplan for the match. Perhaps they could go 3-5-2 with a deep defensive line anchored by Hill in the sweeper role, instructing his two centre half partners throughout the game. If there was any time for Warburton to try something other than his preferred 4-3-3 formation, this would be it. Whether he does remains to be seen.
MRC - Josh Windass; DM - Joey Barton; MLC - Andy Halliday
Rangers desperately need to find some cohesion in this area and get back to the flawless passing play of last term. The match will probably come too soon for Jason Holt, viewed as the missing ingredient in the eyes of some fans, after the midfielder’s return from an ankle knock. Niko Kranjcar’s languid style may not suit the intensity of an Old Firm derby, though expect to see either of those two (or possibly both) rise from the bench around the hour mark.
Though we’ve gone with Windass, Jordan Rossiter will likely get the nod, as Warburton will look to bring greater solidity to the midfield even though Barton and the ex-Liverpool youngster struggled to link successfully in the recent draw at Rugby Park. We’ve opted for Windass because he’s someone who could really bring an X-factor to Rangers’ play. Fully fit after a hamstring problem, the game will represent his league debut if picked. He’s an attacking player who likes to run at opponents, and Celtic’s ignorance of his talents could catch the hosts cold.
FR - Michael O’Halloran; FC - Kenny Miller; FL - Barrie McKay
Celtic will attempt to pin Tavernier and Wallace back in their own half, thereby reducing the attacking duo’s influence further forward. With the home side expected to use one, if not two (if new signing Cristian Gamboa starts), attacking full backs of their own it’s a strategy Rangers may wish to implement themselves. O’Halloran’s blazing speed would represent a danger Celtic would have to be mindful of throughout the match. Not only his marker but the entire defensive unit and, daresay it, the whole team. Rangers themselves can testify as to what can happen when a team pushes too far forward and allows O’Halloran space to attack in behind, as they found to their cost while exiting the League Cup to St Johnstone last season.
McKay, even though he’s been off form since Rangers’ promotion, has enough credit in the bank to guarantee a start on the left. That leaves Warburton to decide on the man in the middle. Waghorn is back from injury, while Joe Garner’s £1.8m price tag puts him into consideration. However, we believe Warburton should turn to the veteran Miller, the very man who gave Celtic a torrid time with a superb first half performance in the Scottish Cup semi-final just five short months ago. Besides, Garner is still feeling his way in, while Waghorn may be rusty after missing a month.