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Rivals meet in first Old Firm clash of the season

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Celtic’s Nir Bitton tested positive for Covid

Celtic’s Nir Bitton tested positive for Covid

PA

Celtic’s Nir Bitton tested positive for Covid

Celtic and Rangers will meet at Parkhead at lunchtime tomorrow in the first Old Firm derby of the season.

Here are the major talking points ahead of the Celtic Park clash between the two famous rivals.

Closed-door derby

Saturday's showdown will be a head-to-head between Glasgow's big two like no other as the bitter rivals prepare to face-off behind closed doors at an eerie Celtic Park.

Normally the combatants struggle to hear themselves think amid the fevered derby din but this time the only noise will come from the players barking at one another and the tactical instructions from Neil Lennon and Steven Gerrard on the sidelines.

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Jonathan McLaughlin

Jonathan McLaughlin

PA

Jonathan McLaughlin

Old Firm clashes are famous for their powder-keg atmospheres but now we will get to see whether this pair of deadly rivals really can start a fight in an empty house.

Round 1 in Celtic's quest for 10

Both sides of Glasgow's footballing divide are acutely aware of what is at stake this term as the Hoops chase down a record-breaking 10th straight domestic crown and tomorrow offers the first opportunity to strike a blow.

Victory for the hosts will have the Celtic faithful believing they are on their way towards capping off a decade of dominance, while a Rangers win will only fuel the Light Blues' conviction that Gerrard is the man to bring back the good times to Ibrox.

Lennon's Covid woes

Lennon's preparations have been blown apart over the last week or so after seeing three players - Odsonne Edouard, Nir Bitton and Hatem Abd Elhamed - all contract coronavirus while away on international duty, with Ryan Christie forced into self-isolation after Scotland team-mate Stuart Armstrong also returned a positive test.

Edouard is due out of quarantine today but Lennon must decide whether he is fit to start after being locked down in France for 10 days.

Gers' glove rivals

Allan McGregor was Rangers' undisputed number one last term but this season the former Scotland goalkeeper has found himself in a fight for a starting slot with Jon McLaughlin.

The summer arrival from Sunderland has certainly looked a safe pair of hands, playing a major role as the Light Blues become the first British team to start a domestic campaign with seven clean sheets.

But McGregor, now aged 38, showed he has not lost his knack for pulling off breath-taking stops during last month's 4-0 Europa League drubbing of Dutch outfit Williem II. However, the question is who does Gerrard believe will cope best with the derby pressure?

Beaton back in the spotlight

The last time John Beaton took charge of an Old Firm clash in December 2018, he was later forced to call in police after his personal contact details were leaked by Celtic supporters, with three men eventually convicted in court.

He will be hoping for a quieter time of it this time as he prepares to handle his third derby meeting.