Celtic host Rangers in the final cinch Premiership game of 2023.
Both sides have positives and negatives to contend with going in to Saturday’s match at Parkhead.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the talking points which surround what is normally a combustible encounter.
Bench boost for Celtic?
Liel Abada and Reo Hatate look likely to be among the Celtic substitutes after returning to training following significant lay-offs. Winger Abada last featured in Celtic’s 1-0 Ibrox win on September 3 before suffering a thigh injury while training with Israel, and Japan midfielder Hatate has been out for two months with a hamstring problem. The influential pair have scored five goals between them in this fixture in the past two seasons.
Big miss at the back for the champions
Cameron Carter-Vickers will miss out with a tight hamstring in a major blow for Celtic. The United States international has been the rock at the back for the past two-and-a-half years but Brendan Rodgers’ side won at Ibrox without him in September. That match saw Liam Scales establish himself almost instantly as a Celtic player and he never looked back. Gustaf Lagerbielke had a less convincing part in the win, benefiting from a VAR decision to disallow a Kemar Roofe goal after he lost the ball. The Swede has only started three games since and is likely to be overlooked for Stephen Welsh, who has never been on the winning side in six appearances against Rangers.
Silver lining among Rangers injury crisis?
Philippe Clement has been frustrated and by his squad’s injury problems since taking over from Michael Beale in October. First-choice centre-back Connor Goldson limped off close to the end of the Christmas Eve win over Motherwell at Fir Park with a groin injury, adding to a list which included Nico Raskin, Tom Lawrence, Ryan Jack, Borna Barisic, Ben Davies, John Lundstram, Jose Cifuentes, Kemar Roofe and Danilo. Clement revealed on Friday, however, that Goldson had trained and will be assessed, while a couple of other players could return – but not striker Roofe or Danilo. A fit Goldson would go a long way to increasing the visitors’ chances of a positive result.
No Rangers fans at Celtic Park
Due to an ongoing ticket allocation dispute between the Glasgow giants, there will be no Gers supporters inside Celtic Park. Clement, looking forward to his first Old Firm game, described the situation as a “pity for football.” Celtic went to Ibrox in September without any backing and won 1-0 but it will arguably be the stiffest test yet for Clement, who is unbeaten in his first 16 games.
Who is best set for victory?
Rangers are five points behind the cinch Premiership leaders with two games in hand. The Light Blues, while not always playing sparkling football, have found a way to win under Clement and have already won the Viaplay Cup and reached the Europa League last 16. After successive league defeats to Kilmarnock and Hearts, Celtic bounced back to beat Livingston and Dundee. A draw would not be the worst result for either side but a second Hoops victory of the season over their Old Firm rivals would signal the return of their recent superiority. A Rangers win would embolden the Light Blues, who have been playing catch-up for most of the season.