Rangers v Celtic (Match Preview)



Probabilities for the match are Rangers 37%, Celtic 33% and 30% for the draw.


Looking at xPts which Stephen Russell (@SJRussell23) and the guys on The Cynic use and below is a 6 game rolling average graph for expected points per game which evens out expected goals trends which can be lop sided due to overwhelming victories.


For the season Celtic's average xPts per game is 2.48 versus 2.35 for Rangers (a variance of 0.13). Rangers six game average is 2.26 and it hasn't been above 2.35 since match day 23. Celtic's current six game average has been above 2.48 for the last three games and is currently sitting on 2.52.


Looking at actual points versus expected points Celtic are on 2.45 v 2.48 and Rangers are on 2.35 v 2.35 so Rangers are getting their expected points while Celtic have been due slightly more.


So Celtic are well deserving of their 0.13 xPts season to date difference over Rangers and that difference is currently at 0.26.


However from an xG and xGD point of view Rangers are remarkably in front of Celtic on a six game average after being behind all season.


The main question everyone will ask is who will be in the line ups for the respective teams so first let's look at the line ups from the 2nd February match.

Rangers played with a 4-3-3 formation however I suspect that will become a 4-2-3-1 one for this game.


In my opinion 1 McGregor, 2 Tavernier, 6 Goldson, 3 Bassey, 17 Aribo and 14 Kent will retain their positions in the team however Bassey will move to left back and Aribo will move to right midfield to use his strength and dribbling ability against Taylor and Starfelt. Kent will be still be wide left but in the 3 advanced midfield positions rather than part of a front 3.


Bassey's average position above is influenced by the change to play him left back in the second half and his place in the centre of defence will go to Balogun as his pace will be needed more rather than Helander's height.


18 Kamara played in the pivot in the last game and was subbed at half time and his place will be taken by Ryan Jack who will be a definite starter. Alongside Jack will be Lundstram ahead of Sands. In front of them in the No.10 position will be Kamara in my opinion and I think he will be picked ahead of Arfield. Although van Bronckhorst seems to like Arfield and you can see him being picked for this type of game with his energy but after the last game I think Rangers will know they have to keep possession better and Kamara will likely be picked to play there as he was for the two Crvena Zvezda games. Ramsey is an option though, if fit.


Morelos would have been the automatic choice for the striker role and given that he is reported to be out injured the favourite to replace him is Roofe however I've got a gut feeling that van Bronckhorst may opt for Sakala as his pace and directness would be more beneficial.


For Celtic the back 4 and keeper are straight forward as is the defensive midfielder. So as per the last game it will be 15 Hart, 88 Juranovic, 20 Carter-Vickers, 4 Starfelt, 3 Taylor and 42 McGregor.


41 Hatate is likely to retain his position in the left sided No.8 role as David Turnbull might be too far away to be decent competition for that place yet. In my opinion Tom Rogic will get the nod for the right sided more advanced No.8 role over 33 O'Riley although I'd rather have the legs of O'Riley in there against the packed midfield Rangers will have. That obviously depends on Rogic's fitness.


In my opinion Maeda will definitely play but it's just a question of where. Wide left as in recent weeks, in the centre or wide right as he can play all three roles? Jota will obviously play so the question on everyone's lips is just will it be Giakoumakis, Abada or Forrest to accompany them? I've got a gut feeling that it will actually be Kyogo. He'll have had enough training behind him now and while many will say it is unfair on Giakoumakis to be dropped Ange will have no fear in picking the team he believes is the strongest over sentiment. If Kyogo is unfit then it will definitely be Giakoumakis ahead of Abada or Forrest.


So the predicted line ups (with their xG per 90) are;

- Hart

- Juranovic 0.15, Carter-Vikcers 0.06, Starfelt 0.08 and Taylor 0.08

- Rogic 0.32, McGregor 0.16 and Hatate 0.14

- Jota 0.33, Kyogo 0.77 and Maeda 0.74

Celtic therefore with a total xG of 37.79 from 15560 minutes played creating an average xG of 0.22 for this team and a total of 2.82.


and

- McGregor

- Tavernier 0.22, Goldson 0.13, Balogun 0.11 and Bassey 0.03

- Jack 0.17 and Lundstram 0.07

- Aribo 0.18, Kamara 0.08 and Kent 0.20

- Sakala 0.51

Rangers with a total xG of 31.02 from 17921 minutes played and creating an average xG of 0.16 for Rangers and a total of 1.7.


So a Rangers team expected to score 1.7 goals and a Celtic team expected to score 2.82 goals however it is worth noting previous expected goals numbers are produced from games against lesser defences.


Although Celtic are away from home I fully expect them to come out attacking from kick off and carry on as they have in the first half of games this season.

For the season to date Celtic have an expected non penalty goal difference (NP xGD) of 1.08 for the first half of games versus 0.51 for Rangers. Therefore I'm predicting that Celtic are leading 1-0 at half time and a unique Greg Taylor goal separating the teams. Taylor to get a goal from being in the half space and advancing into the penalty box from there and getting that space in the box to shoot due to Maeda's movement.


Then in the second half I suspect the pressure on Rangers and home crowd backing will spur them on to get an equaliser. The home crowd definitely makes a difference and I can testify to this from personal experience as I attended the first game when Celtic only had 700 tickets in December 2018 and it was not a pleasant experience. The worst game I've ever attended.

Rangers are averaging 0.5 xG from set plays and Celtic are conceding 0.23 xGA per game and I suspect this could be the way Rangers get their equaliser. Either that or from a penalty!!


However one stat that is amazing is that Hart and Carter-Vickers have still not conceded a league goal in the last 20 minutes and this highlights the control Celtic have in games and also the fact that opponents must be getting tired later into the game.


At 1-1 Rangers will continue to push forward and this will suit Celtic and I'm predicting a counter attack goal for Celtic to finish the game 2-1 winners. If Kyogo doesn't start I'd say he'd get the counter attack goal however if he does start (and is then taken off after about 60 minutes) I'm going to go for Jota to score the winner.



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