Rangers host Celtic at Ibrox live on Sky Sports this Sunday – but how do the teams’ current styles and form compare ahead of the blockbuster clash?
The two teams have played 31 games and only three points separate the titans of Scottish football. Rangers drew their first blood in August before the Hoops responded in style with a 3-0 victory in February. However, three points for Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side this weekend would tie Gers level on points at the top.
So what are the styles, strengths and weaknesses of the teams and where can the game be won or lost?
It is one of the biggest rivalries in world football. Steven Gerrard guided Rangers to their first league title in 10 years last season, ending Celtic’s nine-year streak of dominance – which spanned a period after Gers were demoted in 2012 and rose through the ranks before returning to the top flight four years later.
The interactive chart below includes all derbies dating back to the very beginning: a Glasgow Cup third round clash in October 1888, with Celtic trailing winners 6-1. However, it’s Glasgow’s blue side that have mostly dominated the game for the past two and a half years.
What’s the style?
Van Bronckhorst increasingly deployed a 4-2-3-1, in addition to the preferred 4-3-3 used under Gerrard. The mid positions below show how full-back James Tavernier is pushing high down the right flank with wingers taking on reverse roles.
Collectively, Celtic play even higher up the pitch. Usually starting in a 4-3-3, Postecoglou pushes his wide midfielders close to the central striker, while the focus is much more on the width and forward effort of the two wingers.
Does the league standings lie? Well, the stats reveal that Celtic are leading in almost every attacking metric: goals, shots, shots on target, goals expected from open play and assists. The Hoops’ wider style has also generated a league-leading 25 goals from 939 crosses or corners this season – in addition to 16 shots from quick breaks.
But Gers are considerably dangerous from set pieces, with Tavernier’s notorious performance frequently punishing opponents for dead ball situations. Meanwhile, leader Alfredo Morelos’ immense aerial power also helped his side score 13 headed goals – one more than their next visitors.
In terms of where goals are scored, Rangers look most dangerous in and around the six-yard box and in the pockets just outside that area to the left and down the slightly right side. further away. Celtic are just as powerful close to goal but convert a far greater proportion of goals around the penalty spot.
A notable area of interest would be Rangers’ right channel – Celtic’s left. Both teams usually attack the most on these flanks, with Tavernier and Jota being the main drivers respectively. The battle to attack dominance on this channel could prove crucial.
You can use the interactive chart below to see which players dominate in attack stats. Morelos leads the way with 11 league goals, with a handful of Celtic forwards narrowly behind. In-form Celtic forwards Giorgos Giakoumakis and Kyogo have both scored eight goals in just 744 and 947 minutes on the pitch, respectively.
In terms of creation, no player comes close to Tavernier. The 30-year-old reached the top of the league with 11 assists and 96 chances created. For the visitors, right-back Anthony Ralston and Jota created the most goals, but midfielder David Turnball created the most chances.
Speed and progress
Celtic winger Liel Abada leads the way for fast breaks, while Rangers striker Fashion Sakala poses a considerable threat when deployed.
Meanwhile, Hoops centre-back and Tottenham loanee Cameron Carter-Vickers has carried the ball at his feet further than any other player. Further up the pitch, Tavernier drives Rangers forward frequently down the right channel, with Jota achieving a similar progression for the visitors down the left.
Youth vs experience
The current league leaders have an average starting age of just 25 years and 309 days – only Ross County has a younger squad this term. In contrast, Rangers currently have the oldest roster at 28 years and 69 days. Therefore, while the current standings and future of the league look promising for Parkhead’s side, Van Bronckhorst’s men have far more experience.
Celtic average 653 passes per game. Incredibly, considering eight of Europe’s top leagues, only Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have higher averages this season. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the Postecoglou side have recorded a league-leading 70.3% average possession this season, with Rangers coming second with 64%.
The graph below shows the common pass exchanges between the positions and reveals that Rangers’ distribution occurs primarily in midfield with a notable exchange between the defensive midfield hub and Tavernier. Celtic’s more advanced style reveals even patterns on the pitch, but greater concentrations between left-back and Jota.
The visualization below provides further evidence of average positions and passing networks, with Celtic equaling or surpassing Rangers in passing in all forward areas – notably in the central areas and down the left flank.
Naturally, the centre-backs dominate passing metrics due to short exchanges in the warm-up game, but Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara emerges as the Gers’ passing powerhouse in the center of the park.
Needless to say, Postecoglou will be looking to stifle Tavernier, who has attempted 376 passes into the opposition box this season – nearly double any other player among the teams.
Who presses the most?
While Celtic enjoy more possession in the attacking third, their next hosts are more frequently regaining possession in forward areas. Conversely, Celtic are more robust defensively in the middle third, which is a necessity to avoid counters against a higher line.
As for the players, Rangers attacking midfielder Joe Aribo provides the first pressing, with Morelos and Scott Arfield also providing ample threat, while Tomas Rogic, Jota and Abada lead the way for Celtic.
Meanwhile, Hoops captain Callum McGregor and Rangers midfielder Kamara lead destroyers into the center of the park.
As runaway division leaders, it’s perhaps unsurprising that both sides have conceded the fewest goals, but Celtic have scored a league-low 18 against 25 for Rangers – while the Hoops are also clear with a league-record 17 clean sheets.
However, despite this impressive strength, potential areas of weakness to exploit emerge, with Rangers’ power from set pieces arguably bolstered by the fact that 11 of Celtic’s conceded goals have come from such dead-ball situations this season.
Meanwhile, Morelos’ air power could reap rewards against a side that have scored nine headed goals – only Ross County and Hibernian have lost more – while no side in the division have conceded more than goals from crosses.
On paper, Rangers are unlikely to benefit from an error, with the visitors making just two errors leading to a shot this season. However, the high pressure from Rangers has the potential to press for a costly accident.
The graph below reveals all the defensive moves made by defenders for each team this season and reveals that Rangers centre-backs generally patrol deeper areas than their coming counterparts, with full-backs being heavily active in central areas on the flanks – while Tavernier contributes further up the pitch. , too.
Celtic’s centre-halves venture and engage further forward which reflects the team’s style of play – but there is a lack of defensive cover between the centre-backs and suggests a potential corridor opportunities for hosts.
Interestingly, despite Tavernier’s tendency to move into attacking zones on the right, opposition teams generally attacked Rangers on the opposing flank, with 43% coming from the Rangers left channel. Coincidentally, but more understandably, the same proportions apply at Celtic – with teams looking to exploit their more adventurous left channel.
Returning Kings and Strong Leaders
While the stats may support the case for Celtic’s place at the top of the table, Rangers have certainly shown defiance in the face of adversity, winning a league-high 21 points after dropping positions this campaign. . For context, that’s 29% of their points carried to date.
Meanwhile, both teams showed great resilience once they scored to lead a game, with Rangers dropping 10 points and Celtic giving up a league-low two points. Based on these numbers, Rangers can certainly overcome a deficit, but Celtic are masters at maintaining a lead.
Who is red hot?
Using the Power Rankings formula, which awards players points for 35 different stats – from goals and assists to blocks and tackles, Celtic striker Georgios Giakoumakis is currently the most in-form player among the teams. , based on the previous five league matches. with seven goals in just three league games.
Over the whole season to date, there is only one winner: Tavernier. The full-back has scored nearly 15,000 more points than any other player among the teams, with teammate Aribo holding second place ahead of Carter-Vickers.
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