My Celtic lineup to take on Rangers and the two stars who will ensure success or struggle – Chris Sutton – Chris Sutton

Cameron Carter-Vickers and Carl Starfelt have been rocks in Celtic’s bid for the Premiership title.

Now the central defenders hold the Ibrox key to pushing the team towards their ultimate target and achieving the almost impossible dream.

Ange Postecoglou is going to need his entire unit to perform against Rangers because the home team is strong and they will be gunning for their rivals in front of packed home stands.

But for all the attacking weapons which the Aussie has in his armor heading across Glasgow, it’s the two centre-backs who might swing the game Celtic’s way.

Carter-Vickers and Starfelt have really grown as a partnership through the season and that is understandable given these relationships need time to bed.

Both players need to know what the other one is going to do. Who is going to attack the ball? Who drops off? Who follows a striker out? Who covers when?

Celtic face Rangers on Saturday


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When it becomes telepathic, you are on the right road and the duo are getting it right most weeks.

But I have to confess, I still have doubts about Celtic defensively over cross balls and I’m not sure they are completely solid at set pieces.

And, as was shown in the last game between the teams at Ibrox way back at the beginning of the season, those situations can be pivotal.

Celtic were the best team in that game for the entire first half and had chances to go in front. But Rangers ended up winning because their visitors could not deal with a bread-and-butter corner kick after the break and Filip Helander headed the game’s only goal.

It is a weapon Rangers use well. They have talent to unlock defenses in open play, but their threat from set-plays is obvious with the delivery of James Tavernier and the heading ability of the likes of Helander, Leon Balogun and Connor Goldson.

Rangers barely got into the Celtic half to get a free-kick or a corner in the last game before it was 3-0 and already finished, but that will not be the case this time as they will be at it from the start on their own soil.

Carter-Vickers and Starfelt are going to have to dominate those situations when they, inevitably, arise at various stages.

If I’m Postecoglou, I’m sticking with the same midfield unit. Callum McGregor, of course, starts the game and will lead from the front.

Besides him, you surely have to go for Reo Hatate after his two goals in the previous meetings of the sides.

David Turnbull hasn’t played enough and, although I’m a fan of Nir Bitton, the Japanese has to be ahead of him in the queue because Postecoglou will want his team to dominate the ball.

That leaves one final spot in the engine room and it’s between Matt O’Riley and Tom Rogic. One thing is for sure, you can’t start both of them at Ibrox. Both are sublime with the ball, but you couldn’t call them over-industrious and McGregor and Hatate will need assistance.

Rogic has scored some massive goals against Rangers in the past, but O’Riley did so well in the last game it’s hard to leave him out.

Giorgios Giakoumakis has to start in attack in the central position. The Greek has been in superb form recently and he’s got power.

He can hold the ball up and I like his work ethic. Giakoumakis also has an eye for the net as 11 goals since the winter break suggests.

Were it not for Allan McGregor’s brilliance, he’d have already opened his account against Rangers and he’s a danger.

Jota surely starts. The Portuguese is tailor-made for a game like this with his ability to be calm on the ball, keep it in tense situations, but also run away at pace, counter attack and push his full-back the other way back the pitch.

So far, Postecoglou has always found a way to get Daizen Maeda into his starting line-up. He’s started 10 of the last 11 games and that makes for a big choice between him and Liel Abada.

The Israeli’s finish against Rangers last time was underplayed. It was a sublime touch and he’s got that, but the manager might just like the way Maeda works defenders. He hassles them and does n’t give them a moment.

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That one is 50-50 for me and, in many ways, that sums up the entire contest.

It’s like back to my playing days at Celtic. We were strong. Rangers were strong. The games were tough to call and could come down to a moment of inspiration or madness.

It’s looking like that again and picking a winner is almost impossible.

But I do know that, if Celtic win it, it’s a massive step towards a title success no-one thought possible last summer.

And if they are going to do so, the two boys at the back are going to have to be rock solid again.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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