The first Old Firm game of the season takes place this weekend as Rangers and Celtic go head to head at Ibrox, with both teams boasting a perfect start to the new Scottish Premier League season.
The two clubs are the only sides in the league to have won their opening three league games, and Ian Durrant and Tommy Coyne believe that the winner could gain a significant psychological edge moving forward.
Rangers won both league fixtures at Ibrox against Celtic last season and Durrant has said that the gap between the two Glasgow giants is getting closer – as Steven Gerrard’s side aim to win their first league title since 2011.
Rangers vs Celtic
September 1, 2019, 11:30am
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Former Rangers midfielder Durrant said: “With the quality of players Steven [Gerrard] has brought in, they’ve closed the gap.
“When the fixtures come out you always look in anticipation for the first Old Firm game and I think you always want a home game to start off with.
“Sunday will not be the be-all and end-all – but it could lay a marker down for whichever team wins the game.”
Making a statement against the champions could prove pivotal for Rangers if they are to mount a greater title challenge that what they managed last season – and Durrant feels because of this it may be more important for Rangers to win Sunday’s game.
Durrant added: “I think the way Gerrard talks about how they’re going to put up a challenge to Celtic, it’s going to be a game they’ll want to win.
“It’s the first Old Firm of the season – you want to lay your marker down as quick as you can.”
Former Celtic striker Coyne believes that Rangers’ decision to appoint Gerrard as manager is a major reason why the gap between the two teams has closed over recent times but in these types of games it is impossible to anticipate what is going to happen.
Neil Lennon’s side have been in emphatic form in front of goal so far this season, having scored 15 goals in their opening three league matches.
“I don’t think Rangers will start as favourites – Celtic on most days score goals. I’m expecting Celtic to go there and score at least one goal.
“Celtic get goals from everywhere and I think that’s the difference between the two sides. Celtic can score from any area of the park and I think that’ll be the difference on the day.”
Coyne also said he fully believes Lennon is the right man for the managerial job at Celtic despite unrest among some supporters towards Lennon following Celtic’s shock Champions League exit against Cluj in the qualifying stages.
Coyne said: “I think he’s done a fantastic job and he did in the past. Every time you go out onto the park at Celtic you’ve got to win otherwise there is criticism.