It feels like Rangers are stuck in a vicious cycle. Every time they are presented with a chance to extend a lead over arch rivals Celtic in the league table, they seem to bottle it and drop points. Their Tynecastle defeat at the weekend simply added to the list; an Old Firm win in December put them in the driving seat but they’ve already handed back the initiative to the green half of Glasgow.
These unpredictable results are serving as proof that this will be the tightest race for the title in years and tensions will be higher than ever.
Last season Celtic eased to an 8th league title in a row with a nine point cushion, but if results in the first half of this season are anything to go by, it won’t be as comfortable this time around. Both sides have dropped points in unexpected games and have tended to do so at similar stages. Celtic aren’t quite adhering to the high standards they’ve set for themselves domestically and Rangers are still getting back to their best.
Both managers have a lot to do in what could well be a hectic end to the season. Neil Lennon already has one trophy under his belt this season but after securing their unprecedented ‘treble treble’ last year, Celtic fans won’t be happy if their manager elects to focus on just one competition. He needs to make sure his squad is rotating on a regular basis.
I’d argue that Steven Gerrard is under even more pressure, however. He’s done a good job since his arrival at Ibrox but if he fails to win a trophy in his first two seasons, questions will be asked of his ability to get over the line in a title race. He never won the league at Liverpool either, remember.
Both managers have European campaigns to contend with as well. Celtic travel to Copenhagen while the Gers play host to Braga, and if either of them proceed in the competition it’ll add to their already packed fixture lists. While both sides will be hoping to go through, whoever goes further will surely struggle more in the league. They need to decide what competitions they will prioritise.
Football will dominate the scene in Glasgow over the next few months. It’s been a long time since the city rivalry has been this close in terms of ability and it’s impossible to predict which way the pendulum will swing at this moment. Fans will be at each other’s throats throughout this period and there’s even a (very remote) chance that there could be three Old Firm games in a week in February.
For neutrals, we can strap ourselves in for what has shaped up to be an intriguing title race. It’s been a while since a team has genuinely challenged Celtic and no matter who emerges victorious, it’s a certainty that they’ll have to work hard to do so. Rangers’ defeat to Hearts at the weekend proves that.