One of the most interesting and oldest derbies in world football, the Old Firm Derby is the most followed Scottish game in the football community. Coming from the same city – Glasgow, the cross town rivals have been a symbol of intensity in Scottish Premiership having shared 102 league Championships between them. The Ibrox stadium, home of the Rangers FC, hosted the 409th Old Firm Derby in the aim of winning their arch rivals Celtic who have been a revelation in the recent past.
The defending Champions came into the game with amazing domestic form having won 5 games and drawn one out of seven while Rangers had picked up 11 points from possible 18. Rangers would’ve wanted to put up a decent display against a team which has been blowing their opponents away and a win would’ve closed the gap on to just 2 points, keeping them in catchable distance with their good old rivals.
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Rangers FC (4-3-3) | Manager: Pedro Caixinha
1.Foderingham – 2.Tavernier, 4.Cardoso, 40.McCrorie, 17.Hodson – 8.Jack, 10.Dorrans, 27.Pena – 21.Candeias, 20.Morelos, 11.Windass
Celtic FC (4-2-3-1) | Manager: Brendan Rodgers
1.Gordon – 23.Lustig, 5.Simunovic, 20.Boyata, 63.Tierney – 8.Brown, 14.Armstrong – 7.Roberts, 18.Rogic, 11.Sinclair – 9.Griffiths
Rangers started the game in a defensively solid 4-3-3 which often transformed into a 4-1-4-1. Foderingham started in goal as Tavernier, Cardoso, McCrorie and Hodson constituted the back four. Jack was pivotal for the side as he was defensive midfielder who played in between the two banks of four while both Pena and Dorrans would make regular forward runs however the former being the more aggressive one of the two.
Candeias and Windass played on either side of the Colombian striker Morelos who has been in scintillating form. The 21 year old lad had scored 6 goals in 6 games for the men in Blue.
Celtic on the other hand starting in their customary set 4-2-3-1, fielded duo of Brown and Armstrong in the central midfield given that Dembele is just back from injury. Gordon started in between the sticks as Roberts, Rogic and Sinclair formed the attacking trio behind the striker Griffiths. Lustig, Simunovic, Boyata and Tierney started in defence for Brendan Rodgers’ team.
Rangers’ defensive movements
Right from the opening stages of the game, Rangers looked very solid not allowing space for the Celtic attacking players to create chances. Rangers did not allow Celtic to settle and circulate the ball. By not allowing them to enjoy possession in the danger zones, Rangers made sure that Celtic couldn’t find their players in the final third through their highly favoured possession based approach.
For this they employed the defensive pressing to win the ball in their offensive half. Jack was the key defensively in the 4-1-4-1 set up that was employed whenever Celtic reached their defensive half. By playing the 4-1-4-1, Rangers were able to force Celtic wide which wanted the likes of Sinclair and Roberts to fair well with their individual skill.
Rangers employed man oriented pressing as they looked to win the ball back. Though they failed to win the ball back in some situations, they were successful in stifling their build up play in major parts of the first half.
In the above instance, we can witness Rangers’ marking scheme where the striker Morales would press the last man of the Celtic defence, a retreating Brown in most instances from the defensive midfield. Both the wide players would mark the centre backs who had split wide themselves while the 8s would make the midfielders who drop into the middle.
Often these pressers stuck to their zones and limited their chase as they did not want Celtic to exploit them if they lose out on their idea.
In the initial stages, these defensive movements helped them in offensive moves as they were able to counter as a result of defending deep. Celtic’s domination upfront at certain moments led them to danger as Rangers often tried to capitalize on the counters. Here is one such instance where Rangers counter after they win the ball in the back.
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Celtic’s Left-sided Dynamics
Though the pressing was able to see out the attack from Celtic in the central area, the team in Green and White were adept at creating attacks through the flanks. In the left, the combination of Tierney, Sinclair and Boyata paid great dividends in build up. In certain instances, their pass combinations were able to unlock the Rangers tight defense.
In the video below we can see how Celtic progressed vertically in the left. Often Sinclair was seen dropping into the half space while Tierney provided width, hugging the touch line. The movements of Sinclair were quite brilliant as he was the one creating avenues for Tierney. Sinclair would often gain attraction of his opponent marker and his movements into the centre would drag his opposition number as well.
This helped the case of Tierney who often carried the ball in the left. In certain cases, Boyata was involved with bringing the ball out from the back, while one of the two defensive midfielders would drop deep for defensive support.
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When Boyata brings out the ball, Sinclair would often drop back to collect the ball. But what he does is quite amazing as he becomes the instrumental player in that move. He moves down the pitch and also evacuates space in the wide left which is filled by the advancement of Tierney. Here Sinclair also attracts the wide player (his marker) and as he moves with him, he eventually creates a zone for Tierney which is unmarked.
In other cases, Armstrong would slot into the left half space in the midfield and his exchanges with Tierney would cause problems for Rangers. This often happens when Celtic change their shape from basic system to offensive 3-4-2-1.
Celtic’s structural interchange
Celtic’s structure basically revolved around the 4-2-3-1 which moved into a 4-1-4-1 in defensive phase with Brown playing as the lone number 4 while Armstrong would join the attack minded players who retreated. Rather defending in banks of four and five defended in two banks of four with one player dropping between the lines picking up the opponent who tried to occupy the space in between the defence and midfield.
As seen from the image above, Tierney has occupied a wide position high up the pitch when compared to his full back partner Lustig proving that the former was the outlet in most cases. In this way, Celtic played with a 3-4-2-1 set up in offensive phase with both Tierney and Roberts played on the wide areas while Sinclair joined Rogic behind the striker. In this case, Brown and Armstrong played in the central midfield.
However in most of the cases, Celtic saw Brown dropping behind the defence splitting the two centre halves thereby allowing the full backs to play wider. Here Armstrong would drop into the central midfield and would be joined by the no 10 Rogic flanked by Lustig and Tierney. Both the wide players Sinclair and Roberts would cut infield occupying the half spaces to play behind Griffiths. In this way Celtic were able to interchange their shape and personnel to encounter with the rigid Rangers set up.
Patrick Roberts the key
If one player has to named as the best player on the night then it has to be the 20-year old Patrick Roberts. The English international had a great day against his team’s arch rivals as he ended up with two assists for his name. His diagonal runs into the space in the centre were there to be seen as he often dribbled in between Windass and Hodson with ease. His movements were proving dangerous and it showed up when Roberts, after getting past two of his markers, played a defense splitting pass to Griffiths who found the back of the net.
While Rangers started the game better than their previous games against their arch rivals in the recent past, the outcome was an expected one as Celtic went home comfortably with a 2-0 win. Though Rangers failed to find the back of the net also with a denied penalty, there were signs which showed that they could easily develop themselves in the long run. Once again Brendan Rodgers extends his winning streak against their cross town rivals as Celtic look to dominate the major parts of the domestic season.