"Confidence and momentum", an early Glasgow derby preview

Updated: Aug 12

Celtic and Rangers fans

Competing at the highest echelons of sport involves levels of stress and pressure in intensities rarely matched in other professions. Those who manage it most effectively, by in large, reap the rewards of euphoria and unparalleled job satisfaction. Those who don't can suffer more than just the loss of prize money or three points, where football is concerned.

But what does all that have to do with the upcoming Old Firm derby when Rangers will play host to a Celtic team slowly clicking into gear under new manager, Ange Postecoglou?

To understand, let's rewind to the last week in July, when Celtic fans were processing a heavy defeat in their final pre-season friendly, an early Champions League exit and a loss in their opening league match for the first time in 24 years. At the same time across the city, rivals Rangers had just beaten Real Madrid in their last warm-up game before convincingly grabbing all three points in their league opener, claiming top spot in the table and keeping a clean sheet in the process.

The pressure on Celtic's new manager, Ange Postecoglou, was growing and he didn't have time on his side or room for error as crucial Europa League qualifiers and the first home game of the season approached.

Celtic, as a club, dealt with this mounting stress by bringing in marquee signings Joe Hart and James McCarthy to bolster the first team squad and let loose a talented Japanese striker in European and home debuts to remember.

Early stress test, passed.

Now, just over a fortnight away from the first Old Firm derby of the season, Rangers find themselves in an unfamiliar position for those at the club last season. They have lost their last three games in a row (Gerrard's first as a manager), are out of the Champions League - missing out on a potential prize pot of up to £30 million - and will now make the long flight to either Armenia or Kazakhstan 72 hours before welcoming a resurgent Celtic to Ibrox on August 29th.

Much has been made of Ranger's falterings, playing in high-stakes matches in front of capacity crowds. This inability to deal with pressure situations could play into the hands of a Celtic side currently itching to welcome a capacity crowd back to Celtic Park for the second leg Europa League qualifier against Jablonec.

A win on the pitch (and one or two off it with some new arrivals) could see the confidence and momentum well and truly swing in Celtic's favour, as they prepare to take on their greatest rivals for the first time in this already enthralling season.

What are your predictions for the first Old Firm match? Let us know in the comments below.