Good morning and welcome to Sports Mole's live commentary of the Old Firm derby between Rangers and Celtic from Ibrox. Rangers are unbeaten in their last five Scottish Premiership matches and currently sit second in the table, three points off leaders Celtic, who have a game in hand. Celtic have won their last three in the league since a 2-0 loss at Hibernian earlier this month, while the Hoops are unbeaten in their last 10 Scottish Premiership games against Rangers. Stay tuned for what should be a cracking match!
Not since a 3-2 home success in March 2012 have Rangers beaten Celtic in the Scottish Premiership. Olivier Ntcham scored the only goal of the match when the two teams met at the home of Celtic in September, which proved to be Steven Gerrard's first defeat as Rangers boss.
Right, without further ado, let me bring you up-to-speed with the all-important team news from Ibrox. Both managers had injury concerns ahead of the match. Let's have a look...
RANGERS: McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Worrall, Halliday; Kent, Jack, McCrorie, Arfield, Candeias; Morelos
CELTIC: Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Benkovic, McGregor; Brown, Ntcham; Forrest, Christie, Sinclair; Johnston
Rangers boss Gerrard has made two changes to his starting XI from the team that drew 1-1 with Hibernian on Boxing Day. Fit-again duo Scott Arfield and Ryan Kent take the places of Lassa Coulibaly and Glenn Middleton, meaning that Andy Halliday continues at left-back. Alfredo Morelos is once again tasked with leading the Rangers line this afternoon.
As for Celtic, the big news is that 19-year-old Mikey Johnston will start through the middle, with Odsonne Edouard only on the bench. Scott Sinclair scored a hat-trick in the 4-3 win over Aberdeen on Wednesday and he continues in the final third of the field. Kieran Tierney only makes the bench, meaning that Callum McGregor will start at left-back for the Scottish champions.
So there we have it. The two teams are in and we are now just about 45 minutes from kickoff at Ibrox. The atmosphere is already absolutely electric and will only rise as kickoff draws closer. There is just no downplaying these matches and this one comes just before the winter break.
Celtic have not been without their problems in the Scottish Premiership this season, but the Hoops lead the division on 42 points, three points clear of second-placed Rangers. The Hoops also have a game in hand over every team in the division other than St Johnstone, meaning that a win this afternoon would place Brendan Rodgers's side in a very strong position indeed.
Celtic's 42 points have been gathered courtesy of a record of 13 wins, three draws and three defeats from their 19 league matches during the 2018-19 campaign. They are the leading scorers in the division with 46 and also have the best defensive record with just 13 conceded.
Since losing 2-0 at Hibernian on December 16, Celtic have won their three Scottish Premiership matches. Indeed, Rodgers's side recorded back-to-back 3-0 wins over Motherwell and Dundee before recording a 4-3 victory away to Aberdeen on Boxing Day. Scott Sinclair scored a brilliant treble for Celtic, who have been full of goals in recent weeks.
Kieran Tierney is only fit enough for the bench this afternoon, while Celtic are without Tom Rogic following his call-up to the Australia squad for the Asian Cup, which is a big blow. Ryan Christie has been in fine form for the Hoops though and he starts this afternoon.
Rangers have not lost in the Scottish Premiership since a 1-0 home defeat to Aberdeen on December 5, but Gerrard's side have won just two of their five league fixtures since then. The Gers beat St Johnstone 2-1 on December 23, but were held by Hibernian on Boxing Day.
The draw with Hibernian was disappointing, and it would be fair to say that the winter break is coming at a good time for Rangers due to the sheer number of matches they have played. It would be some way to finish 2018 if they could find a route past Celtic this afternoon.
To be honest, unless Alfredo Morelos scores for Rangers this afternoon then it is difficult to see Gerrard's side winning. Morelos has netted 20 times in 33 games in all competitions for Rangers this season, with interest in the 22-year-old growing as the weeks pass.
At the other end of the field is 19-year-old Mikey Johnston. The Scot has scored three times in seven Scottish Premiership appearances for Celtic this season, but this is the biggest afternoon of his career. Edouard has nine Scottish Premiership goals for Celtic this term, but the Frenchman is only on the bench. It will be fascinating to see how Johnston performs here.
Like Celtic, Rangers have only suffered three Scottish Premiership defeats this season. The first of those, as mentioned above, was against Celtic at the start of September, while they have also been beaten by Livingston and Aberdeen in the first half of the 2018-19 campaign.
"I feel we're a couple of results away from having the perfect six months, if you like," Gerrard told reporters ahead of the match. "We have to bring our A game. We're playing against a good team with good players. They will be well-drilled, I know that for sure. We know that we have to bring our best to get the result we want. I'm confident the players can do that."
Just a reminder of the two starting XIs for this match...
RANGERS (4-3-3): McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Worrall, Halliday; Jack, McCrorie, Arfield; Kent, Morelos, Candeias
CELTIC (4-2-3-1): Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Benkovic, McGregor; Brown, Ntcham; Forrest, Christie, Sinclair; Johnston
There is a little bit of confusion over whether Rangers will line up in a 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1 this afternoon. I shall clear that one up when the match starts. Celtic, however, look to be a in a 4-2-3-1, with Johnston leading the line. Sinclair and Forrest will operate in the wide positions.
It must be said that there is a wonderful atmosphere inside the stadium this afternoon. These matches are just so special. The Rangers supporters look to be in confident mood at Ibrox.
Here we go then; both sets of players are in the tunnel ahead of kickoff at Ibrox. It is second-placed Rangers versus leaders Celtic in the latest Old Firm derby. Stay tuned for the action!
KICKOFF: Rangers kick things off on home soil...
... Kent's return is big for Rangers and the winger has been lively in the opening moments. The noise is just deafening as Rangers continue to move the ball in Celtic's half of the field.
Halliday snaps into a challenge with Ntcham, which seems the noise go up a notch.
Celtic are not being given a moment of the ball here as Rangers continue to press high up the field. It is high-action stuff and the match is yet to settle, which is not a surprise.
Celtic have a free kick in a dangerous area out wide as Tavernier fells McGregor...
... poor free kick from Christie and Tavernier thumps clear for a throw.
SAVE! Decent save from McGregor to keep out a low strike from Forrest.
SHOT! Christie fires wide of the post from the edge of the Rangers box.
Half-chance for the home side this time as Candeias delivers a dangerous cross into the Celtic box, but Benkovic does well to clear ahead of Morelos, who looks fired up for this one.
Rangers force another corner following more good work from Kent, but again Celtic clear their lines. High-action stuff at Ibrox as the fans continue to create a wonderful atmosphere.
Brown just, and I mean just, manages to beat Candeias to a loose ball just outside the Celtic box. It would have been a red card had Brown got that challenge wrong, no question.
Rangers have the chance to deliver another dangerous ball into the Celtic box - this time from a free kick - but Celtic clear their lines once again. There is no question that the home side are the team on the front foot at the moment as Celtic scramble around to clear their lines.
Morelos is still down for Rangers following a heavy Lustig challenge.
Morelos returns to his feet and will continue. Rangers remain on the attack.
SAVE! Oh my word! Stunning chance for Rangers as Kent delivers a wonderful cross towards Candeias, but the attacker sees his close-range effort saved by Gordon!
SAVE! Another excellent Gordon save to keep out a header from Goldson!
OFF THE BAR! Incredible! From the resulting corner, Brown heads a Halliday corner against his own crossbar. Rangers come close once again, but Celtic are somehow still level.
Celtic are really struggling to settle here as Rangers continue to dominate.
Morelos breaks clear in a wide position and has options in the middle, but decides to shoot from a narrow angle, which proves to be the wrong option as it is deflected clear.
CHANCE! Another chance for Rangers as Goldson heads a Halliday corner wide.
You do get the feeling that Rangers might be made to regret the missed chances in this match. The home side should already be at least 1-0 ahead and quite probably more to be honest.
Another half-chance for Morelos, but his low strike is well wide of the Celtic goal.
Little over 15 minutes of the first period remaining, and it must be said that this match has flown past thus far. Just a few signs that Celtic are starting to settle on the ball here.
Celtic have had much more of the ball in the last five minutes or so, but Rangers continue to look dangerous in the final third, with Morelos certainly causing a lot of problems.
GOAL! RANGERS 1-0 CELTIC (JACK)
Oh my word! Rangers take the lead in the 31st minute as Jack's low strike goes through the legs of Brown and ends up in the back of the net. The goal is all about Kent, however, with the winger providing a wonderful assist. Kent's return for Rangers has been simply huge.
Celtic boss Rodgers has just walked to the touchline as he looks for a better view. The Hoops have been second best all over the park thus far, with Rangers definitely deserving their lead.
Johnston has hardly had a kick in the final third for Celtic this afternoon. Not happened for the 19-year-old thus far, while Sinclair and Forrest have also been very, very quiet at Ibrox.
Forrest has the chance to burst clear for the away side, but Worrall does really well to make the slide challenge, which brings a huge cheer from the crowd, with the majority enjoying this.
CLOSE! Kent just misses the Celtic goal with a curling effort!
Brown has just had a shot blocked from the edge of the Rangers box as Celtic look to respond late in the first period. Rangers should already be two or three goals ahead here though.
Super challenge from Tavernier this time to clear the ball from under the feet of Sinclair. Celtic's corner is delivered into a dangerous area, but Kent is able to bring the ball clear.
Rangers have been impressive in the final third but have also defended very well in this match, with Tavenier and Worrall making a number of fine challenges. Celtic might have to make a change in the latter stages of the half as Benkovic has gone down holding his hamstring.
CELTIC SUB! Benkovic is replaced by Ajer for the away side.
We are into the second of two additional minutes at the end of the first period.
YELLOW CARD! Lustig (Celtic) is booked for a foul on Candeias.
HALF TIME: RANGERS 1-0 CELTIC
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to a close with Rangers leading Celtic 1-0 courtesy of a goal from Jack. There is absolutely no question that the home side deserve their lead at the break, with Celtic just not turning up. Gerrard will be absolutely delighted.
STATISTICS! Rangers had 58% of the possession in the first period, while they hit the target with three of their six attempts. Celtic, meanwhile, managed just one shot on target in the opening 45 minutes. Just the one booking to report, with Lustig carded late in the first half.
BENCH WATCH! Celtic were forced into a change late in the first period, with Ajer taking the place of the injured Benkovic. Edouard and Tierney are among those still in reserve, though. As for Rangers, Gerrard has options in the shape of Coulibaly, Lafferty and Middleton.
KICKOFF: Celtic resume the action here...
... CELTIC SUB! Ralston replaces Lustig for Celtic.
SAVE! Wonderful save from Gordon as the Celtic goalkeeper keeps out a strike from Kent, who had all sorts of space inside the Celtic box. The away side then manage to clear following a scramble. Massive moment in this match as Rangers look to double their lead.
CLOSE! Christie sees his strike deflect wide of the Rangers post for a corner.
Hardly time to take a breath at the moment as the relentless nature of the match continues.
Celtic will have a period in this match where they create chances, and that is why it is vital for Rangers to score a second. The home side should already be out of sight in this match.
Rangers continue to find space in the wide positions, and it must be said that Kent has been sensational for Gerrard's side, while Candeias has also been dangerous down the other side.
Morelos has a low cross deflected behind as Rangers continue to force the issue.
Johnston just cannot get in the game here. The teenager just tried to turn away from Tavernier, but the Rangers captain was too quick and eventually won the free kick.
SAVE! Another super save from Gordon to keep out a low strike from Jack!
Surely it will not be too long before Edouard is introduced, although Rodgers needs to be careful as he would then have no more subs left. It is all going wrong for Celtic here.
Edouard will soon enter the field as he receives his final instructions from Rodgers.
CELTIC SUB! Edouard replaces Johnston for the away side.
SAVE! Decent save from Gordon to keep out a strike from Morelos.
I would be very, very surprised if we had seen the last of the goals in this match. Rangers have been so dominant, but Celtic will fancy their chances of creating at least one big chance before the afternoon is out. It would be some result if the Hoops could snatch a point from this one.
Just the one yellow card in this match, which is not bad for the Old Firm derby. However, I suspect that will rise as the match approaches its latter stages. Still 1-0 to Rangers.
DISALLOWED GOAL! Oh my word! Celtic have the ball in the back of the net through McGregor, but the offside flag is raised. It is just about the correct decision from the linesman.
Rangers are preparing to make their first change of the match here.
Arfield has a shot blocked inside the Celtic box following bullish work from Morelos.
RANGERS SUB! Coulibaly replaces Candeias for the home side.
Celtic are having much more of the ball at the moment as they search for a leveller. Christie is certainly having more of an impact in the final third for the Scottish champions.
Good pressure from Rangers in the last couple of minutes. A dangerous free kick comes into the Celtic box, but Boyata manages to clear behind. A second at this moment would be huge.
YELLOW CARD! Ajer (Celtic) is booked for chopping Kent to the deck...
SAVE! ... Gordon is down to keep out Tavernier's free kick.
YELLOW CARD! Brown (Celtic) is booked for a foul on Kent.
Still 10 minutes of normal time remaining in the Old Firm derby.
The atmosphere inside the stadium is absolutely wonderful, but nerves will set in as the full-time whistle draws closer. Celtic are still very much in this contest when they shouldn't be.
SHOT! McCrorie sees a long-range effort miss the Celtic crossbar.
SHOT! Stunning block from Halliday to block a strike from Ntcham!
It is a nervy Ibrox at the moment as the click continues to tick on.
YELLOW CARD! Halliday (Rangers) is booked for wasting time.
It will be very interesting to see how much time is added at the end of the 90.
We are into the first of three additional minutes here.
Halliday does really well again to clear ahead of Sinclair, and time is running out for Celtic as the click ticks on. Rangers are moments away from a huge, huge three points here.
RANGERS SUB! Flanagan replaces Arfield for the home side.
FULL TIME: RANGERS 1-0 CELTIC
So there we have it. Ryan Jack scores the only goal of the match as Rangers record a 1-0 win over bitter rivals Celtic in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday afternoon. Jack's 30th-minute effort has seen Rangers beat Celtic in the league for the first time in almost seven years, and has helped Steven Gerrard's side move level on points with their rivals at the top of the division
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