In the debate about which local derby is the biggest in the world the south coast encounter between Brighton and Bournemouth would not get as many mentions as the Old Form derby in Glasgow. When Celtic player Rangers it’s about much more than football as the clash has a huge historical and religious context. Everton and Manchester United are just 35 miles apart but their fixture brings together two cities that have a love/hate relationship. These three derbies are being shown live on television over the New Year’s weekend.
If clubs from Manchester and Liverpool have an intense rivalry the Celtic and Rangers relationship is based on bigotry and intolerance of a contrasting point of view. Its Ireland v Great Britain, Catholic v Protestant and green v blue in a 90 minute sporting event. Very few players have represented both clubs. Ibrox Stadium has seats of every colour under the rainbow except green and apparently the club table tennis table is blue. Celtic currently have the best team so can beat their most despised rivals by at least one goal on Saturday.
New Year is a bigger party than Christmas in Scotland. In fact January 2nd is a Bank Holiday and the Old Firm match was traditionally played on New Year’s Day. The match was not played for a number of years because Rangers were relegated to the fourth tier of Scottish football for financial irregularities. Rangers are still trying to catch up with Celtic who regularly play in the Champions League. Celtic are two places and 11 points ahead of Rangers in the current Scottish Premiership table. Celtic must be the home bankers of the televised matches over the weekend.
Manchester United have drawn their last two Premier League fixtures two-all but that equates to four dropped points. They are now 15 points behind Manchester City in the Premier League table which means the title is now beyond them. City must lose five matches and United must win 18 for places to alter and even then United must dramatically improve on their goal difference to overhaul the noisy neighbours. United play Southampton at home on Saturday and there is no margin for error. The league has gone so Jose Mourinho might now focus on the Champions League.
Everton welcome United to Merseyside on Monday and this will be a special match for Wayne Rooney. Football has a funny way of producing coincidence bets which means Rooney will probably score against the club for whom he is the record scorer. A goal could help Everton maintain their unbeaten run under Sam Allardyce and another 2-2 outcome in a United match would not be huge surprise. In any case this fixture has a draw written all over it which means United will probably drop further of the pace and could lose second place.
West Brom are about even money to be relegated and those odds could be cut after their home match against Arsenal on Sunday. Crystal Palace, Everton and West Ham have improved under new managers and a fresh approach. However, Alan Pardew has not made much difference to West Brom’s form and results and the nightmare scenario of dropping into the Championship is now more probable than possible. Losing at home against Arsenal will continue that process.
Bournemouth are now in the mire and manager Eddie Howe is not “too good to go down”. Bournemouth are functional and well-drilled but are lacking something at this level. Brighton are more about passion than tactical awareness especially at home. That means the outcome of the south coast derby is a home win for Brighton against their nearby rivals. However, there will be a great deal more at stake in the Glasgow local dust-up. The Celtic v Rangers fixture is much more than a football match.