The Old Firm derby is arguably the most heated rivalry in European competitions. One that has existed since before the 20th century and has persisted to date. Celtic and Rangers, the two biggest clubs in Scotland, have always found themselves on opposite sides of a conflict in several social institutions, including religion as well as politics. Now, on the brink of the 2020s, the clubs find themselves precariously balanced on a pendulum which could sway the wrong way with even the slightest misstep.
Reigning SPFL Champions Celtic find themselves on the brink of creating history, having won 9 of the previous titles, the most recent under Neil Lennon, and are pushing for their tenth in a row or as it has come to be known – 10IAR.
Meanwhile, on the other side of Glasgow, the Rangers have found their footing after making their way up from the fourth division of Scottish football and are challenging for the title after their resurgence under Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard. Tensions are running high as fans, pundits, and most importantly, the players and staff, gear up for the biggest dogfight in the history of Scottish football.
Challengers Rangers have started their title chase in top form, having won 5 of their initial 6 games, their only blip being a goalless draw against Livingston away from home. They have been shrewd in the transfer market, strengthening across all positions by making key signings such as Kemar Roofe and Leon Balogun.
Under Stevie G, the Gers have been on an upward curve and have improved every season since he took over at the start of the 2018-19 season. The player turned manager has been influential at Ibrox and has vastly improved their chances of securing the title this season, after leading them to consecutive 2nd place finishes.
Having set the stage, expectations will be high and anything less than the title would be considered a failure and could even force the management to give the gaffer the boot. Gerrard must maintain the early season form of the Blues and gun for the title to cement his name in Rangers folklore forever as the manager who stopped Celtic FC’s attempt in the 2010s from winning 10IAR.
The manager from Parkhead, conversely, has endured a shaky start to the campaign, blotted with the Boli Bolingoli controversy and a depleted squad after key departures in the summer. Recent results have not filled the Hoops faithful with confidence, even with some key additions to the squad like goalie Vasilios Barkas from AEK, defender Shane Duffy from Brighton and forward Albian Ajeti from West Ham.
Current manager Neil Lennon led the side in the first half of the decade and guided them to 4 titles during that period. After returning to the club last season, the manager has been tasked with leading them to their 10th title in a row.
Success would see him become a Celtic legend and give him some much-needed relief at the end of the season. Falling to their neighbors would see him become a Celtic legend as well but in this case, it would be in a negative light as the boss who screwed up their chance of shutting Rangers down for an entire decade. Much like Gerrard, Lennon would also face the axe should he falter in the title chase this season.
Scottish football might not be as glamorous in Europe as their counterparts from other smaller leagues, but they certainly boast the fiercest rivalry in the entire continent. The tribal football city of Glasgow will witness an eternal struggle where only one side can win. But merely winning is not enough as the other side must also loose painfully. This season provides the perfect opportunity to leave a lasting impression and have the last laugh as well as bragging rights for years to come. There is no better way than by winning or stopping the ten in a row.