|Scottish Premiership: Celtic v Rangers|
|Venue: Celtic Park Date: Sunday, 31 March Kick-off: 12:00 GMT|
|Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Scotland, live text commentary on BBC Sport website & app|
Celtic and Rangers meet in the third Old Firm game of the season on Sunday, with the hosts knowing victory would all but secure an eighth successive Scottish Premiership title.
The hosts would move 13 points clear of the Ibrox club with seven games to play should they win, and strengthen Neil Lennon’s chances of landing the Celtic manager’s job full-time.
But a Rangers triumph would cut the gap to seven points, with the sides still to meet at Ibrox.
Steven Gerrard guided Rangers to their first Old Firm victory in 13 matches with a 1-0 triumph when the sides met in December, with Celtic winning the opening league encounter 1-0 in September.
Lennon back in the Old Firm crucible
Lennon returned after Brendan Rodgers’ departure to Leicester City in February and takes charge of Celtic in his first Old Firm derby since 2012.
His derby record stacks up well. The Northern Irishman’s win ratio is the joint-third best record among Celtic’s last six managers, with six wins and two draws in 12 matches. Only Rodgers and Martin O’Neill – whose teams Lennon played in – at 59% have fared better.
And when considering the points per Old Firm game won by Celtic’s last six bosses – assigning the standard league reward to cup matches – Lennon’s record is burnished further.
Rodgers stands a distance above the rest but Lennon’s average of 1.7 is only just short of that of O’Neill on 1.89 and is 0.3 points per game better than Gordon Strachan, Ronny Deila and Tony Mowbray.
Can Gerrard’s side salvage season?
Rangers have fallen 10 points adrift of their city rivals over their past nine league matches, having moved level at the top by winning the December derby.
With Aberdeen knocking them out of both cup competitions, a season without silverware looks likely unless Gerrard can rouse his players for a remarkable comeback in the league.
They were feeble at Celtic Park in September, though, and have a habit of struggling in the second half of matches. Of the seven games they have been drawing at the break this term, Rangers have won just 14% of them. Conversely, Celtic have won 69% of the nine matches in which they were level at the interval.
Gerrard’s side have also let leads slip on six occasions in the Premiership this season, which equates to 13 points dropped. Celtic have led the exact same number of league matches this term – 23 – but have only spurned that advantage twice.
What do the pundits think?
Former Rangers striker Steven Thompson on Sportsound
Regardless of the result on Sunday, Celtic will win the league. But the winter break seemed to rejuvenate them and they are clear favourites for Sunday, given their home record especially. Rangers are on a disjointed run and need to replicate their performance in the last derby. Can they do that at Parkhead? That’s a big ask because they’ve been a bit erratic since then. Celtic know how to get it done, and that is something Rangers need to learn.
Ex-Celtic striker Scott McDonald on Sportsound
It depends on personnel for me and it all depends on the midfield battle because Celtic were well and truly beaten in there at Ibrox. I expect a really good performance from Rangers. Steven Gerrard will realise his tactics were wrong in the first game of the season at Celtic Park and they need to get in their faces early and try and dominate them. I can see Rangers getting a draw and it is a big opportunity to show something to their fans.
- Celtic have lost just one of their past 11 league games against Rangers (W8 D2).
- Rangers have won only one of their past 12 league visits to Celtic Park (D4 L7) and are winless since a 3-1 victory in October 2010, failing to score in six of those eight matches.
- Lennon has lost just one of his past seven top-flight games against Rangers.
- Gerrard will be looking to become the first Rangers manager to win back-to-back Premiership derbies since Walter Smith in October 2009.
- Celtic are unbeaten at home in the Premiership this season, winning 14 of their 15 games while conceding just five goals.
- Rangers have lost just one of their past 15 league games and are unbeaten since a 2-1 defeat against Kilmarnock in January.