Monday 17 June 2019

Rodgers aims to preserve Old Firm status quo

Brendan Rodgers is well wrapped up against the cold as he practises his ball skills during training at Lennoxtown yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
Brendan Rodgers is well wrapped up against the cold as he practises his ball skills during training at Lennoxtown yesterday. Photo: Getty Images

Roddy Forsyth

A Celtic manager who has never lost to Rangers will today come up against the only Rangers boss to have taken points from Celtic Park since Walter Smith in 2010.

That, sadly for the Ibrox faithful, is about as far as any suggestion of parity between the sides can be projected in current circumstances.

It would be a surprise greater than that of Hearts' 4-0 victory over Celtic two weeks ago were Rangers to prevail at Parkhead today in the eighth Old Firm derby to be played since Brendan Rodgers became manager in the summer of 2016.

Between times, Rodgers has supervised six wins over Rangers, including 5-1 hammerings of teams managed by Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha respectively.

On the only occasion when Rodgers was thwarted - a 1-1 draw at Parkhead last March - Graeme Murty was Rangers' interim manager. And Murty will in the Rangers dug-out again today, this time on a longer-term basis, when the teams meet again in the east end of Glasgow.

Rangers' scorer in that contest was Clint Hill and since then Kenny Miller is the only Rangers player to have breached Celtic's defence, getting the consolation goal when the champions achieved their record victory at Ibrox in April.

Hill, though, is now at Carlisle and Miller is on a casualty list which also includes Lee Wallace, Graham Dorrans and perhaps also Ryan Jack, who is doubtful.

Celtic, too, have absentees - Jonny Hayes, Patrick Roberts and Tom Rogic - but, whereas the league leaders' squad can cope with these losses, Rangers are significantly weakened by their injured players, even though none of them would be a regular starter if playing for their arch rivals.

Given the imbalance in strength between these neighbours, Murty's chances of repeating his earlier feat look remote, bar an off-day for Celtic and an unforeseen gala performance by his team.

Murty nevertheless attracted an endorsement from Rodgers. "I'm just glad for Graeme that he eventually got the job until the end of the season," said the Celtic boss.

"He's clearly good at his job and has earned the right to get the opportunity."

Rodgers has passed many milestones in his 19 months in charge and this game is another.

"This will be my 97th game here at Celtic," he said. "I played 96 games as manager of Swansea and I was there for a couple of seasons.

"I've been here a lot less than that, so it just shows you the number of games we've been playing, but it all points to having great success and that's what we want.

"If we're playing games and winning titles then, of course, we're going to be playing this number of games and that's what we hope to continue into the New Year."

Celtic v Rangers, Live, Sky Sports, 12.0

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