Wednesday 20 February 2019

Old Firm is 'crazy’

Boyata can’t wait for Rangers clash

PASSIONATE OPPONENTS: Celtic’s Scott Brown screams at Rangers’ Graham
Dorrans during the Scottish Cup semifinal at Hampden Park earlier this month. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA
PASSIONATE OPPONENTS: Celtic’s Scott Brown screams at Rangers’ Graham Dorrans during the Scottish Cup semifinal at Hampden Park earlier this month. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA

Celtic defender Dedryck Boyata has described the Old Firm experience as “crazy” ahead of the visit of Rangers tomorrow.

The Hoops can clinch their seventh successive Premiership title against their city rivals, who have failed to beat Brendan Rodgers’ side in 10 Glasgow derbies since the Northern Irishman took over the Parkhead club in 2016.

Boyata, a 27-year-old Belgium international who joined the Hoops on a four-year contract from Manchester City in 2015, said: “It is crazy.

“For me, coming from abroad and not knowing the history, at first when I heard about it, I thought it was just a derby game like I would see in Manchester but it is definitely not.

“It is much crazier. But it is a game you want to play in. When you are on the pitch it is unbelievable.

“For the moment we have been on the good side of it so it is a moment we have always enjoyed. As a player you can see how it feels for the people around us and it is good to be there.”

The authorities tried to avoid scheduling a post-split fixture which could see Celtic clinch the title against their city rivals.

However, the Hoops’ 2-1 defeat by Hibernian at Easter Road last week has led to exactly that scenario.

Rodgers, nominated for the PFA Scotland manager of the year award along with Kilmarnock’s Steve Clarke, Neil Lennon of Hibernian and St Mirren’s Jack Ross, said: “It clearly wasn’t overly thought out because last week they sent us to probably the most in-form team that is playing - away to Hibs.

“So there clearly wasn’t too much thought put into it. But the way it goes up here, the last five games are going to be tough games, no matter who you play.

“We just want to win it as early as we can. We have four opportunities to win and we hope to take it on the next one.

“I have always said it doesn’t really matter who you clinch it against, home or away. You just want to win it. What is nice is if we can win it in front of our own supporters.”

The Northern Irishman will assess the fitness of striker Moussa Dembele and midfielder Stuart Armstrong ahead of the game.

Rodgers admitted he was “a little bit surprised” to see Steven Gerrard linked to the manager’s job at Rangers.

Former England captain Gerrard was Liverpool’s skipper when Rodgers was in charge at Anfield.

“I’ve seen the speculation over the last couple of days and I was a little bit surprised,” said Rodgers.

“But the most important thing when you are starting out is when you feel the time is right, especially when it is about your first job.

“It is not necessarily about a club, it is about the right club.

“And if the speculation is right and Stevie has spoken to them then maybe there is something in that, that he feels that it is the right club.

“I know he always wanted to be a manager, I know that from my time working closely with him at Liverpool.”

Rodgers was reluctant to expand too much on the challenges Gerrard would face .

The former Swansea boss noted Graeme Murty, who currently occupies the Ibrox hot-seat but whose hopes of getting it past the end of the season probably ended with the recent 4-0 Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Celtic at Hampden Park.

Rodgers said of Gerrard: “First and foremost it is the football challenge. He has lived with expectation all his life playing with Liverpool and captaining England as well.

“When you go into any job and in particular at the big clubs there is always that expectancy.

“But it is all speculation and I don’t want to spend my whole time talking about that.”

  • Celtic v Rangers, Live Sky Sports, Tomorrow (KO 12.0)

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