Celtic vs RangersScottish Premiership, KO: 12:30 Dec 29, 2019, Celtic Park
THE stakes couldn't be higher as Celtic and Rangers square off in the final game before the Scottish Premiership heads into its winter break.
The Hoops will open up an eight-point gap at the top with a third Old Firm victory this season while Rangers can narrow the gap to two points, with a game in hand, if they can claim a first win at Celtic Park since 2010.
The old firm derbies have taken on added importance this season with both teams swatting aside the rest of the Scottish Premiership.
Celtic have dropped just five points all season, a defeat at Livingston and a draw away to Hibs, while Rangers have only been defeated by the Hoops, with their other dropped points coming in draws at Hearts and Aberdeen.
Since that slip-up at Livingston, the champions have racked up 11 consecutive league victories and will be looking to strike a blow in the title race by making that 12 against Steven Gerrard's men.
How the bookies view it
Neil Lennon's side are the favourites for this one, at a best 23/20 with Blacktype while the Ibrox side are 13/5 with Bet365.
A few punters might fancy a nibble at those odds on Rangers given they outplayed Celtic in the League Cup Final, despite losing 1-0.
This is a game that really could go either way and the draw looks the best option for me at 28/11 with SportPesa.
Recent head to head
Celtic have held the upper hand this season, winning 2-0 at Ibrox in the league then following it up with victory at Hampden in the League Cup Final.
But only a heroic performance from Hoops keeper Fraser Forster, and some poor finishing from Alfredo Morelos, stopped Rangers from getting their hands on the silverware that day.
The last meeting at Celtic Park was a fiery one (below), with Morelos sent packing for a kick at Scott Brown and Ryan Kent somehow avoiding another red card for punching the Hoops skipper.
That came after James Forrest had sealed a 2-1 win for the champions, capitalising on a mistake from James Tavernier.
Rangers have claimed three derby victories in the last four seasons but two of those came at Ibrox and the other at Hampden in the 2016 Scottish Cup semi-final.
They haven't won at Parkhead since a 3-1 victory in October 2010, although Gers did claim two draws there during Brendan Rodgers' period of dominance.
Players to watch
Odsonne Edouard was only fit enough to start on the bench in the League Cup Final and Celtic's winner came from a free-kick he won.
The Frenchman has netted five times against Rangers and always seems to come alive in the big games. He's 13/8 with Betway for a goal here and that looks excellent value given his record in this fixture.
Morelos, in stark contrast, has flopped against the Hoops. I thought the Colombian would finally get an Old Firm goal in the Hampden final but he wasted several excellent chances, most notably from the spot.
But Morelos remains Gerrard's deadliest weapon, a fact underlined when he netted the winner against Kilmarnock last time out after coming off the bench.
That took his tally for the season to 28 so Unibet may have overpriced him a little at 21/10 for a Parkhead goal. Ryan Kent scored a superb solo goal last time out at Celtic Park and also looks overpriced at 4/1 for a goal with Paddy Power.
Anything else catch the eye?
There have been red cards in the three of the last four derbies, with Morelos (below), Jordan Jones and Jeremie Frimpong sent packing. Another dismissal here pays 11/5 with Unibet and that's worth considering in a game with so much at stake.
I can see this being very tight so go for under 1.5 goals in the first half, under 2.5 strikes in the second half and either team to win, which is 11/8 with Ladbrokes.
A one-goal winning margin for either side pays 13/10 with Betway and that's also worth considering in a game which promises to be so keenly contested.
This Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and Rangers will be played on Dec 29, 2019 and kick off at 12:30