There is much debate about which is the biggest domestic fixture in British football and when Rangers play Celtic the fur certainly flies. Sunday’s semi-final in the Scottish League Cup will see the usual bigotry so it will be interesting to compare that with how the Special One is received back at Chelsea. Manchester United visit Stamford Bridge on Sunday when Jose Mourinho manages an English team for the first time in a match against the club where he had two spells.
Liverpool at home to West Brom and Manchester City on their own ground against Southampton are two home bankers and that double pays almost even money. Liverpool were average against United at Anfield on Monday night and City are playing on the back of a trip to Barcelona in the Champions League. Both sides are flat track bullies who have been exposed this season but they can get their league seasons back on track with wins by more than one goal and both winning to nil.
Celtic beat Rangers 5-1 at home in the Premiership earlier this season in the first league fixture in the top division since 2012. While Rangers have been recovering from being demoted for financial issues Celtic have won the league for the last five years. However, that’s not saying very much because no other team in the Scottish Premiership has anywhere near the fan base and resources of Celtic and Rangers. Scottish football at the highest level is uncompetitive and there has been talk of the two Glasgow teams breaking away to play in a league with Scandinavian teams.
It is often suggested that Celtic and Rangers should join the Premier League in England which would no doubt thrill Nicola Sturgeon! The Scottish superpowers can raise their game for showpiece occasions against English clubs but how they would get on over a long season is debatable. Celtic drew with Manchester City at home in the Champions League earlier this season but they would not be able to maintain the intensity shown in that fixture over 38 matches or more. The two Scottish giants would be no more than average mid-table outfits in the Premier League.
A form guide is Celtic’s 7-0 defeat away to Barcelona in the Champions League where City could have avoided defeat when you are reading this article. Brendan Rodgers said the turning point was when Celtic missed a penalty at one nil! He somehow thought if that Celtic had equalised Barcelona would not have walked in another six goals. I’m sure the Barca galacticos would not have been too concerned about conceding one goal against the best team in Scotland.
At the start of the season Rangers were seen as potential champions but there is still a gap between the side and Celtic. Joey Barton was signed to bring some Premier League experience and quality but that plan has gone badly wrong. The Rangers central defence lacks pace and a commanding figure and it was exposed in the league match when five goals was the least that Celtic warranted. A win for the Hoops over the Gers by at least one goal is anticipated and Rangers could struggle to score.
Chelsea and Manchester United are currently out of the Champions League qualifying positions and it is feasible for both to miss out. City, and Arsenal look nailed on for two of the four spots and Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham are right in the mix. That means the fixture between Chelsea and United could be key in determining who gets into the Europa League. Antonio Conte and Mourinho have not delivered yet and would be under pressure if losing this match which means we could see a stalemate.
Chelsea have broken records in the past for all the right reasons. However, the 2015-16 Premier League champions had a campaign to forget last time from the day they lost to Arsenal in the Community Shield. It had all gone wrong by the time Mourinho left in December and Conte has not addressed the suspect defence when John Terry does not play. United have spent a fortune but are not much better than during the David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal days. It’s quite possible that Conte or Mourinho will not survive the season and Sunday’s meeting will go a long way to determine who has least job security so a draw would suit both parties.
Have a fantastic weekend!