Celtic’s upcoming game against the Rangers, away at Ibrox, might very well be the most important fixture of their season. As things stand, the Hoops have a three-point lead in the Premiership table, but that is not a significant advantage and can be overturned in a single game. Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side will get the opportunity to attempt to do that after the international break when the two Glasgow giants meet. For the first time in nearly a decade, the Premiership title race appears to be going down to the wire, and the two remaining league games between the two sides could very well decide the fate of the trophy.
Both teams are currently in good shape. While Celtic have excelled in domestic competitions, the Rangers have had a successful season in Europe, even defeating Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League knockout stage.
Joe Hart; Josip Juranovic, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Carl Starfelt, Greg Taylor.
Celtic’s central-defensive partnership of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Carl Starfelt has been instrumental for the Premiership leaders this season. The pairing has helped Celtic maintain the best defensive record in the league. Celtic have only conceded 18 goals so far in the league.
In matches that Starfelt has played in this season, the Celtic defense has kept 20 clean sheets. That is in 40 appearances for the Bhoys, so in half the games that the 26-year-old has played for Celtic, the Hoops haven’t conceded a goal. Starfelt has attempted 10.10 defensive actions per 90 minutes and has completed 81.68% of these actions. He lies in the 96th percentile for the number of recoveries he has completed per 90 minutes. Starfelt features on the left of the two centre-back and has done well to win the ball back for his team from various duels on the left side of the pitch. Most of his duels on the left side are 50-50 and aerial duels. He has won 60% of these duels, and he successfully recovers possession of the ball.
Callum McGregor, Matt O’Riley, Reo Hatate.
Hatate made one of the best Glasgow Derby debuts of the season earlier this year, scoring twice and assisting on the other in Celtic’s 3-0 win over Rangers at Parkhead. The Japanese star delivered a spectacular performance, putting Celtic in command of the Scottish Premiership title race. The above viz depicts Hatate’s passing and progression statistics from his 11 appearances for Celtic. So far, he has three goals and two assists. His stats are significantly higher than the league median value. He attempts 53.52 passes per 90 minutes and has a 78.40% pass success rate. Given that the majority of his passes are in the final third, this is brilliant. He averages 2.62 smart passes per game and 17.05 forward passes per 90 minutes.
Considering the playing style of McGregor and Hatate, O’Riley might just be the ideal player to feature alongside them. Hatate balances well on the left with O’Riley’s natural tendencies to play on the right. O’Riley also links up well with Juranovic, along with the right-winger, and it is noticeable that Celtic are more threatening from the right when they have O’Riley on the pitch. As seen in the above visual, O’Riley has played the majority of his passes on the right flank and has also put in some great balls into the penalty area, which has generated a high xT. He has attempted 48 passes per 90 minutes and has completed 83% of his passes.
Jota, Georgios Giakoumakis, Daizen Maeda.
Giakoumakis has scored 12 goals in 22 games for Celtic in all competitions. This is brilliant, keeping in mind that the striker failed to get any playing time at the start of the season due to injuries. He has eight goals in the league so far and four more in the Scottish Cup. His statistics show that he has had creditable performances in his limited playing time this season. He has a high xG per 90, shots per 90, and shots on target. He has attempted 3.505 shots per 90 minutes and has hit the target on 55% of his shots. Giakoumakis is in excellent form, and Postecoglou is unlikely to bench him in favor of Kyogo Furuhashi if he is declared fit for the Rangers game.
The Greek striker has also worked well with Jota and Maeda in the front three, with Maeda playing a slightly wider role, but both attackers get inside the box when Celtic have the ball in wider areas. Jota has been highly impressive as well and has two assists in two games. The above visual shows us how well Jota has linked up with both his attackers as he has created the highest xT from his passes to Maeda and Giakoumakis.