It’s one of the fiercest rivalries in world football, but of late it has been a decidedly one-sided contest. The conflict between Celtic and Rangers is rooted in decades of religious, political and socio-economic factors, but at its core is a competition between Scotland’s two most successful teams. In recent years, though, one has been much more successful than the other.
Celtic have won the last eight top-flight titles on the spin with the march to the fabled ’10-in-a-row’ now a primary motivation. On top of this, the Hoops have lifted the last nine major pieces of silverware in Scottish football, with last season’s Scottish Cup triumph securing a so-called ‘Treble Treble’ - three treble-winning seasons in a row.
Rangers, handicapped by financial ruin suffered some seven years ago, have been forced to watch on helplessly. Now, however, there is a new dynamic to the rivalry and it feels a lot like the one that existed for generations. This season has so far witnessed Celtic and Rangers go head-to-head once more with the two teams set to clash in the Betfred Cup final this weekend.
No matter the outcome there will be a certain symbolism. For Celtic, this is a chance to underline their continued dominance of the Scottish game. For Rangers, it’s an opportunity to prove themselves as genuine challengers, to prove that they are no longer the underdogs in this rivalry. And for Steven Gerrard, a first piece of silverware would validate all that he has done to improve the Ibrox club since his appointment two summers ago.
Will Liverpool be watching given that their former captain has been tipped as a future manager of the Anfield club?
This match promises to be one for the ages, the first part of a duel that is unfolding over the whole season. Celtic and Rangers are tied on 34 points at the top of the Scottish Premiership table, each winning 12 of their opening 14 fixtures. They are both excelling in Europe and are playing a brand of football that has caught the imagination of their respective fanbases.
Both teams boast commanding midfielders (Celtic have Scott Brown, Rangers have Ryan Jack), dangerous wingers (Celtic, James Forrest and Rangers, Ryan Kent) and red hot centre forwards (Celtic, Odsonne Edouard and Rangers, Alfredo Morelos). A trophy at this early stage of the season would plant a flag. Will that flag be a blue and red one or a green and white one? It could tell us which way the pendulum of this rivalry is swinging next.