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Friday 30 September 2016

Rangers to host Celtic on New Year's Eve in Old Firm as SPL fixtures are released

Andy Newport

Published 17/06/2016 | 10:06

New Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers. Photo: PA
New Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers. Photo: PA

Rangers will make their first visit to Celtic Park in four years on September 10 and the Old Firm giants will also meet on New Year's Eve.

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The two sides met twice in cup action during Rangers' journey back through the lower divisions but they are now preparing to square off on league duty for the first time since the Hoops' 3-0 victory back in April 2012 at Celtic Park, although the date is still subject to television scheduling.

The traditional New Year fixture is also back on the calendar, with the Glasgow giants set to meet at Ibrox on December 31.

The third derby takes place at Celtic Park on March 11, with the fourth and final clash set for Ibrox after the league split so long as both teams are in the same half of the table at that point.

New Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers will hope to make a successful start to his reign in Glasgow's east end when the champions open their domestic campaign away to Hearts on August 6.

Top-flight football returns to Ibrox the same day as Mark Warburton's Championship winners start at home to Hamilton.

Aberdeen, who pushed Celtic so close last season, begin with a trip to Perth to face St Johnstone, while Kilmarnock will hope to avoid the troubles that saw them survive only through the play-offs last term when they kick off at Rugby Park against Motherwell.

Partick Thistle host Inverness on the opening day, with Dundee travelling north to Dingwall to take on Ross County.

Celtic, however, have taken up the option of postponing their second fixture on August 13 in order to take on Italian giants Inter Milan in a glamour friendly in Limerick.

They are due to host Partick Thistle but an alternative date will have to be found.

But there is big-match action that day, with Aberdeen hosting Robbie Neilson's Jambos at Pittodrie, while Rangers head to Tayside to take on Dundee.

The Hoops faithful will have to wait until August 27 to see their team at home in league action, with the Dons making their first trip to Glasgow.

Rangers will head to the Granite City on September 24, before welcoming Aberdeen to Ibrox on April 8.

As well as the Old Firm clash on New Year's Eve, there is a full card of fixtures, including derby clashes in Lanarkshire and the Highlands. Hamilton face Motherwell at New Douglas Park while County host Caley Thistle in Dingwall.

However, the fixtures have not gone down well with Motherwell.

The Steelmen are due to host Celtic on December 3 and Rangers on January 28 but face four trips to Glasgow to take on the big two.

Fir Park chief operating officer Alan Burrow tweeted: "I'm not normally one to be critical - but I have to say, I'm disappointed with the SPFL fixtures this morning.

"Our fans are being asked to travel to both Inverness and R.County in a midweek, one being three days after Christmas, which makes little sense to me.

"In addition, we only have two home 'Old Firm' games, whereas some of our nearest competitors have four.

"From a sporting and financial point of view, that puts Motherwell at a real disadvantage. Previously, it was worked out that teams would have x2 vs Celtic and x1 vs Rangers (or vice versa) prior to the split, which meant everyone was in the same boat on and off the field. Hugely disappointed."

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster believes the return of the Old Firm derby and the addition of Celtic boss Rodgers and Rangers midfielder Joey Barton to the competition will boost the image of Scottish football.

He told Sky Sports News HQ: "The return of Rangers is massive for the Ladbrokes Premiership. The Old Firm derby is the one game which resonates around the world.

"Already we're seeing people not just talking in the UK about the game, but around the world in all sorts of markets. It's massively important for the game in Scotland that the game returns and we're delighted to see it back.

"There's huge excitement and huge anticipation. There's no question the arrival of Brendan Rodgers and Joey Barton, that's box office.

"It's been a while since people were talking around around the world about the Scottish game but the arrival of people like that in Scotland is massive and testament to the ambition of the clubs."

On the inclusion of games on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, Doncaster added: "Generally, clubs prefer 3pm starts on a Saturday so we try to schedule as many as we can. If both clubs for any particular fixture want to change they can come to us and make an application.

"Typically New Year is when you have the derby games in Scotland. It's no surprise (the Old Firm game) should be in there. It may move around that weekend for TV but to have the weekend for New Year for derby matches is fairly traditional in Scotland."

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