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All eyes turn to Old Firm derby – Celtic v Rangers talking points

Rangers v Celtic – Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership – Ibrox
(Image credit: Ian Rutherford)

Celtic and Rangers will meet at Parkhead on Saturday lunchtime in the first Old Firm derby of the season.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the major talking points ahead of the Celtic Park clash.

Closed-door derby

Saturday will see the first closed-door derby clash between Glasgow's big two

Saturday will see the first closed-door derby clash between Glasgow’s big two (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Saturday’s showdown will be a head-to-head between Glasgow’s big two like no other as the bitter rivals prepare to face-off behind closed doors at an eerie Celtic Park. Normally the combatants struggle to hear themselves think amid the fevered derby din but this time the only noise will come from the players barking at one another and the tactical instructions from Neil Lennon and Steven Gerrard on the sidelines. Old Firm clashes are famous for their powder-keg atmospheres but now we will get to see whether this pair really can start a fight in an empty house.

Round one in Celtic’s quest for 10

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Both sides of Glasgow’s footballing divide are acutely aware of what is at stake this term as the Hoops chase down a record-breaking 10th straight domestic crown and Saturday offers the first opportunity to strike a blow. Victory for the hosts will have the Celtic faithful believing they are on their way towards capping off a decade of dominance, while a Rangers win will only fuel the Light Blues’ conviction that Gerrard is the man to bring back the good times to Ibrox.

Lennon’s Covid woes

Celtic’s Odsonne Edouard contracted coronavirus while away on France Under-21 duty

Celtic’s Odsonne Edouard contracted coronavirus while away on France Under-21 duty (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Lennon’s preparations have been blown apart over the last week or so after seeing three players – Odsonne Edouard, Nir Bitton and Hatem Abd Elhamed – all contract coronavirus while away on international duty, with Ryan Christie forced into self-isolation after Scotland team-mate Stuart Armstrong also returned a positive test. Edouard is due out of quarantine on Friday but Lennon must decide whether he is fit to start after being locked down in France for 10 days.

Gers’ glove rivals

Rangers keeper Allan McGregor (left) has faced competition for his place from Jon McLaughlin this season

Rangers keeper Allan McGregor, left, has faced competition for his place from Jon McLaughlin this season (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Allan McGregor was Rangers’ undisputed number one last term but this season the former Scotland goalkeeper has found himself in a fight for a starting slot with Jon McLaughlin. The summer arrival from Sunderland has certainly looked a safe pair of hands, playing a major role as the Light Blues become the first British team to start a domestic campaign with seven clean sheets. But McGregor, now aged 38, showed he has not lost his knack for pulling off breath-taking stops during last month’s 4-0 Europa League drubbing of Dutch outfit Williem II. But who does Gerrard believe will cope with the derby pressure?

Beaton back in the spotlight

Referee John Beaton will be the man in the middle on Saturday

Referee John Beaton will be the man in the middle on Saturday (Jeff Holmes/PA)

The last time John Beaton took charge of an Old Firm clash in December 2018, he was later forced to call in police after his personal contact details were leaked by Celtic supporters, with three men eventually convicted in court. He will be hoping for a quieter time of it this time as he prepares to handle his third derby meeting.