The probabilities are 36% Rangers, 35% Celtic and 29% the draw indicating this really is a tight match to predict. Literally a coin toss.
Many respected opinions last year said it was a coin toss between the two teams (based on some match stats) but in my opinion it definitely wasn't. The 25 point gap wasn't a true reflection however neither was the so called close games. They looked closer than they actually were as Rangers were controlling the games.
In the five games last year Rangers were leading 54% of the time, Celtic were leading 3% of the time and it was a draw 43% of the time. Bearing in mind that a draw in the January game and the March game at Celtic Park was a result Rangers were happy with Rangers were getting the result they want 62% of the time.
Leading in games also has an impact on xG performance as there is less need to have shots when winning so this Game State needs to be taken into consideration when looking at xG performance. Rangers were leading 58% of the time in all 38 league games last year, losing 5% of the time and drawing 37%. For Celtic it was 41% winning, 47% drawing and 12% losing.
Celtic had 17.3 shots per 90 when drawing last season and that decreased by 10% when we were winning and increased by 9.7% when we were losing. Celtic had 22% more shots per 90 when we were losing compared to when we were winning. In the Euros shots declined by 16% when teams were winning.
Last year Celtic had an average NP xG of 1.85 per game while Rangers had an average of 1.81. To show you the Trends I've produced a graph below based on 6 game rolling average for league games. You can see that Rangers had an excellent start and Celtic a poor start with both teams fairly level until Rangers won the title. Celtic's xG improved towards the end of the season and that improvement has increased even further since the start of this season.
For NP xGA there was a similar theme with Rangers starting well and Celtic starting poorly giving away up to a 6 game average of 1.29 at game 13 (away to Hibs). Celtic's average NP xGA for the season was 0.89 per game while Rangers average was 0.72. Celtic again improving towards the end of the season and have been performing better since the end of the season. (In this graph lower is better).
For NP xGD it's obviously a similar theme at the start of the season and again similarly Celtic have performed better from the split onwards. Rangers average xGD for last season was 1.09 per game while Celtic's was only 0.96.
Individual graphs for each team with both xG and xGA included are below.
5.01 of Rangers xG conceded came from counter attacks whilst Celtic conceded 5.96 from counter attacks. Rangers were the best in the league for this measure whilst Celtic were 4th best with St Johnstone and Hibernian conceding less xG from counter attacks. Not defending well during transitions was a issue for Celtic last season.
Another issue for Celtic last year was conceding from set plays and while Rangers conceded 6.87 xG from set plays Celtic conceded 11.55. This was joint 5th lowest in the league with Rangers having the lowest. Not only did Rangers have the lowest conceded xG from set plays at 6.87 they only actually conceded 1 goal from a set play all season. Celtic conceded 10 goals from set plays.
In the first derby game of the season 15% of Rangers attacks came down the middle (with 41% left and 44% right) and that % down the middle increased to 17% in the 2nd game, 23% in the 3rd game and 24% in the 4th game.
In the 4 derby league games Rangers had an NP xG of 5.4 and Celtic had an NP xG of 4.76. 33% of the games were played in Rangers defensive final third and 24% were played in Celtic's final third. Celtic had 56% possession in the two home games and Rangers had 51% possession in their two home games.
Both teams had 46 shots at goal each however 37% of Rangers shots were on target versus Celtic's 30%. 76% of Rangers shots were in the box while 70% of Celtic's were in the box. Rangers had an NP xG per shot of 0.117 while Celtic had an NP xG per shot of 0.103. (So far this season for the 3 league games Rangers NP xG per shot has been 0.103 while Celtic NP xG per shot has been 0.154 and that is from 61% more shots).
Rangers had 91 box touches from all league games last season versus Celtic's 79. Although similar to final third % above Celtic had 652 final third passes versus Rangers 616.
Rangers defending better as a unit when Celtic had that pressure in the final third while Rangers being more clinical and effective at getting into the box.
Celtic had 1493 accurate passes at 80% accuracy and Rangers had 1320 at 79%.
One advantage Rangers had over Celtic was a settled system and settled team. Looking at the most used 11 players for each team Rangers average for these 11 players combined was 74% with Goldson playing all 3420 minutes of the league season (100%). Celtic's average was 63%. Rangers could easily play the same 11 in today's game (COVID permitting) while Celtic have 4 players from below (Frimpong, Ajer, Brown and Elyounoussi) who are no longer at the club and could easily have only 5 of those 11 starting tomorrow as Bain definitely won't start and Edouard is not guaranteed to start.
In their last league game against Ross County Rangers lined up;
2 Tavernier, 6 Goldson, 26 Balogun and 3 Bassey
17 Aribo, 10 Davis and 18 Kamara
7 Hagi, 20 Morelos and 14 Kent
Many Rangers fans are predicting a team with McCrorie, Helander, Barisic and Roofe in for McGregor, Balogun, Bassey and Hagi.
I can't see them playing Aribo in midfield and I would expect him to play in the wide right forward position with Lundstram coming into the midfield as Aribo is not as good defensively in the midfield role.
I think Celtic may go with a midfield of Rogic, McGregor and Turnbull and that really worries me defensively. Hopefully I'm wrong and Christie plays in the midfield instead of Rogic and even a midfield 3 of Christie, McGregor and Turnbull is not great defensively.
I'd play Edouard instead of Rogic and although when Ange has done so Kyogo has played wide left my preference would be for Kyogo to stay in the middle and for Edouard to play wide left. Turnbull and Edouard link up well together and would be a good pairing on the left and Edouard would pose questions to Rangers attacking right back whether that be Tavernier or Patterson. Would they still attack or would they be worried about leaving Edouard free?
With that in mind my Celtic Trends Tip is 11/2 with William Hill for Turnbull to have an assist.
As much as this is going to be a difficult game due to it being a derby debut for Hart, Starfelt, Kyogo and Abada and the fact it will be an intimidating atmosphere with no Celtic fans I believe we really do have a chance to win this game.
We are still weak defensively in the midfield but we are getting better and we are better than last year and I think our back 4 and keeper are far more organised than they were last year, especially when we get time to be organised. Rangers do give that time to be organised as they like to build from the back and 34% of their xG created last year came from build ups which was the highest of any team (we were 2nd highest with 29%).
However our biggest deficiencies last season (in my opinion) were;
not being clinical enough and finishing our chances and also not creating good enough chances from some good possession
not having belief ... so when we didn't convert chances we started to panic and eventually lost some silly goals and then our heads went down when conceding. Even when we scored we looked nervous. As if the team were thinking we can't lose this lead.
I believe we have gone some way to address both these deficiencies this year and with the chance creation we are enjoying I can see us scoring a couple of goals.
My prediction then is a 2-1 win with Kyogo scoring in the first 10 minutes and Christie adding a 2nd in the first half (with one of those goals being a Turnbull assist) then Morelos getting a consolation for Rangers as he always seems to get himself in good scoring positions.
However even if we were to lose the game we shouldn't panic as Ange is still at the very beginning of his journey.
Enjoy the game. Hail Hail.
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