Old Firm derby could define Steven Gerrard’s managerial career

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No matter what happens at an ice cream Ibrox on Saturday, someone leaves with the wind in favor.

For a resurgent Celtic team, it’s a chance for redemption. Having won the Scottish Cup, completing their historic quadruple treble in the process, they look like a rejuvenated team, and six consecutive victories in all competitions have them imagining a home win for their rivals that would be considered a surprise.

It would be considered a surprise because the Rangers are realistically one win away from taking home the Premiership title.

The defending champions may have played three fewer games than their title rivals, but a loss would put them 19 points off the pace. Napkin Math – That’s a ten point gap, even assuming they win their games in hand.

Against a team that has already played 55% of its season and lost points twice, it seems like an impregnable abyss.

The opportunity to put that kind of distance between clubs isn’t something that comes up too often for Rangers these days.

And it’s one that Steven Gerrard knows his team should take advantage of.

As formidable as the Light Blues have been since returning from the pandemic’s forced hiatus, last season’s post-Christmas capitulation is a demon they have yet to fully exorcise. They were favorites for the league last Christmas: ten games later, Celtic had 13 off and the season was over.

It was a painful meltdown and while even the most ambitious of players would hesitate to bet on a similar Celtic comeback this time around, if the Rangers fall to defeat this weekend, those ghosts will start to resurface.

Gerrard’s personal history also influences this. He has yet to win a league as a player or coach and has a storied history of let things slide. But he will forget about that as he tries to take control of what he can.

He has some problems to solve ahead of the big one, none more so than in his exhausted midfield. Scott Arfield and Ryan Jack have arguably been two of the standout players in the Premiership this season, but both are injured and the engine room seems light.

Glen Kamara, Steven Davis and Joe Aribo are a strong enough trio in their own right, but they will face a much stronger Celtic midfield than the one that faced them in October. The arrivals on the scene of fringe players David Turnbull and Ismaila Soro, who took over Dundee United on Wednesday, make Lennon’s squad far more dynamic and far less predictable, just in time for a decisive trip to Ibrox.

The gap between the teams may suggest a clear favorite ahead of Saturday’s clash, but there is no room for complacency. Celtic are in the best shape they have had this season, and with proven winners across the park, they will be ready to settle the score. The self-confidence that has led them to nine titles in a row is yet to be back in full swing, but it’s not a million miles away.

Gerrard knows his bubble needs to burst and the Rangers have the pin in hand. It is up to them to use it.

Unless Gerrard’s team is systematically dismantled, they will leave Ibrox on Saturday with a cushion at the top of the table, and favorites to win the title on the fifth time asking for it. Their tireless efforts thus far, winning each of their last 13 league games by a total score of 39-3, has put them in that prime position.

However, the feeling that despite all their former brilliance, they cannot afford to give up even a second still cannot be shaken. Certainly not this weekend.

It may be the game that, for better or for worse, defines Steven Gerrard’s managerial career

Steven Gerrard, Ianis Hagi
Ianis Hagi receives some words of wisdom | Mark Runnacles / Getty Images

Lose, and you will hear the screams of the same as always beginning to echo in the distance.

Win and have finally overcome the demons of the past.

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