Saturday, December 16, 2006

No X-Factor at Ibrox

If, in our world of sporting cliché, there can ever be a meaningless Old Firm match surely this Sunday’s encounter is a contender.

Whatever the result, Sunday is unlikely to tell us anything we don’t already know.

Celtic will still be unreachable at the top of the league: a Rangers win won’t change that. A victory for Paul Le Guen’s men will merely be further evidence of Celtic’s shortcomings. Gordon Strachan does not need to be beaten at Ibrox to know that his team is far from being the finished article.

If Celtic win it will simply be further proof that Rangers are a work in progress. Evidence, depending on your personal taste, of Le Guen’s inability to manage a decent team or of the continuing toils of a good manager trying to settle in Scotland.

Celtic go into the game as favourites. Rangers have won two games in the past week but the Ibrox side seem only to turn corners in the hope of finding another dead end to run up.

The chances of the game being a spectacle – of football, of passion, of anything – are slim. This is a battle, despite their European progress, of two very average teams. So far this season Celtic have been slightly less average than Rangers. Don’t expect that to change on Sunday.

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