Celtic vs RangersScottish Premiership, KO: 12:30 Oct 17, 2020, Celtic Park
THIS will be the strangest Old Firm game in history as Celtic and Rangers square off for the first time behind closed doors.
Players and punters are beginning to get used to matches being played in eerie atmospheres but the absence of fans will be felt more than ever when Glasgow's big two go into battle.
Home advantage is usually massive in this fixture, although both derbies last season were won by the away side before Covid-19 brought the campaign to an early conclusion just before they were due to collide again at Ibrox.
The virus has played a big part in the build-up to this game too, with Celtic trio Odsonne Edouard, Nir Bitton and Hatem Elhamed testing positive on international duty and Ryan Christie also forced into self-isolation.
Celtic are still hoping Christie will be cleared to play at the last minute but star striker Edouard is a huge doubt as he was only permitted to travel back to Scotland from France on the eve of the game.
Plenty has been made of Celtic's absentees but only Christie has been a key man this season, with the Israeli duo in and out of the side and Edouard struggling for form. So Neil Lennon's team hasn't exactly been left ravaged but they will need to hit better form to see off a Rangers side who have been impressive at home and in Europe.
Steven Gerrard's men have dropped just four points in the Premiership so far, both on the road to Livingston and Hibs, and a victory at Celtic Park would take them four points clear at the top, albeit having played a game more.
How the bookies view it
Celtic would normally be around evens or odds-on for a home derby but with their Covid crisis and the game being held behind closed doors they are as big as 31/20 with 888Sport for this one.
Rangers are 17/10 with McBookie to repeat their Parkhead win of last season while the stalemate is 5/2 with the same firm. There hasn't been an Old Firm draw since Gerrard took charge so I'd argue we might be due one between two evenly matched sides.
Recent head to head
There has been nothing between the sides since Gerrard's arrival in Glasgow, with Celtic only just edging the head to head. In Gerrard's first season at the helm, Rangers lost both derbies at Parkhead but got their revenge in the games back at Ibrox.
That trend was reversed last term, with Celtic winning 2-0 at Ibrox before Gers triumphed 2-1 at Celtic Park in December. In between those matches, the Hoops won 1-0 in the League Cup Final with 10 men thanks to a fantastic display from keeper Fraser Forster (below).
Players to watch
Edouard has been my go-to guy for Old Firm goals and delivered when I tipped him to score in the last derby at Celtic Park. That was his sixth derby goal but I'm steering clear of the striker (below) here as I doubt he will start.
For a Hoops scorer, I'm tempted by Frenchman Olivier Ntcham at 4/1 with McBookie. He will probably replace Christie in the midfield and netted in a 1-0 derby win two seasons ago.
Rangers star Alfredo Morelos is still waiting for his first goal against the Hoops and is 9/5 with Betway to break his duck. But he has been away on international duty with Colombia and Gerrard might not trust him given his record for red cards in this fixture.
Ryan Kent has been Rangers' best player this term and has scored on his last two visits to Celtic Park. The winger is 9/2 with McBookie for a goal and that looks overpriced.
Anything else catch the eye?
I tipped a red card in the last derby and it came up when Morelos was sent packing right at the death. Every derby had an ordering-off last term and another dismissal here pays 7/4 at Bet365. For a bonkers bet, Paddy Power price a red card for both sides at a whopping 25/1.
It might be safer to bet on bookings as I'm expecting sparks to fly, even without the usual frenzied atmosphere. Scott Brown is always good value for a derby card and the Hoops skipper is 11/8 to pick one up here. Scott Arfield has been one of his regular sparring partners and the Rangers midfielder is 7/2 for a card.
Celtic have scored in every league game so far while Gers have drawn just one blank so I fancy both teams to score which is a best 3/4 at Boylesports.
This Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and Rangers will be played on Oct 17, 2020 and kick off at 12:30. Check below for our tipsters best Celtic vs Rangers prediction.