WITH anticipation building ahead of the first Glasgow derby league game since 2012, Celtic will be hoping they can make an early statement this Saturday by beating arch-rivals Rangers.
However, having lost their last meeting back in April in the Scottish Cup semi-final, the Bhoys must look to dominate the key individual battles this time around if they are to come out on top.
Here, we examine what the important match ups will be at Parkhead this weekend, with kick-off at mid-day.
Brendan Rodgers v Mark Warburton
Team selection will also be pivotal and Rodgers will need to make sure the team he picks has a shrewd balance between experience in the likes of Scott Brown to solidify the team and exuberant talent in the likes of James Forrest to create openings.
Dorus De Vries v Wes FoderinghamCeltic keeper, De Vries, has been preferred in recent weeks to Craig Gordon, having been described by Brendan Rodgers as ‘brilliant’ with the ball at his feet.
However, the Dutch stopper will have to make sure he has his mind on keeping shots out rather than playing with his feet as Old Firm games are won or lost on the finer details – top saves are usually one of them.
If Celtic are to come through a stern test such as Rangers, De Vries has to make sure he is ready when called upon especially with the experienced goal poacher Kenny Miller, prowling around the box.
Kolo Toure v Kenny MillerSpeaking of Miller, he arrives back at Celtic Park this weekend, as the pantomime villain in a Rangers shirt, having previously been a Bhoy nine years ago.
That means he may receive a fair amount of stick from the home faithful, so Kolo Toure will have his hands full this weekend at centre-half, as Miller will be chomping at the bit to try and silence the Celtic fans.
Despite Miller's deteriorating pace at 36, his experience of Glasgow derbies makes him a dangerous threat in the final third and his record of 21 goals last season shows he can still find the back of the net.
Scott Brown v Joey Barton
Brown's tenacity and his energy in the centre of midfield often means he's the heartbeat of the team and as captain, his leadership and experience will also be crucial in helping the newer players such as Scott Sinclair settle into their first derby.
Meanwhile, his midfield rival, Joey Barton, will be living up to his bad boy reputation by trying to ruffle a few Celtic feathers. However, Brown will need to stick to his task and keep his discipline intact, as he's a massively key component to the hosts.
This battle in midfield could turn out to be the deciding encounter, as both are the captains of their respective teams, so will need to set the example by trying to cleanly win the 50-50s in the central area of the pitch.
James Forrest v James Tavernier
After losing his way last season, Forrest has become a rejuvenated figure since Rodgers' arrival and showed exactly what he can do when given the license to attack in the opening day 2-1 win at Hearts, scoring the first goal with a fine strike.
Forrest could turn out to be Celtic's key outlet as he possesses the pace and trickery on the right wing to open up what will more than likely be a tight and cagey match.
Forrest's sublime attacking qualities and energy will be a thorn in the Rangers side and could cause them big problems on the counter attack if he can get the better of ‘Gers full back Tavernier.
Leigh Griffiths v Phillipe SenderosHaving scored over 40 goals for the Bhoys last season, Leigh Griffiths is Celtic's star player and that means the Rangers defence will be doing everything they can to keep him quiet.
Phillipe Senderos could be the man selected to mark Griffiths. He would be making his bow for the club since signing last month and would therefore be keen to impress. If that’s the case, Griffiths should look to take advantage of the Swiss centre back's inexperience in Scottish football and put him to the sword right from the off.
With the 26-year-old being Celtic's most potent threat, Brendan Rodgers will be hoping that Griffiths is firing on all cylinders come derby day.
The outcomes of these individual battles will be the barometer of Celtic's fortune's this weekend and will determine whether they can pull four points clear of their neighbours at the top, with a game in hand.
LAST FOUR HEAD-TO-HEADS
- Rangers 2-1 Celtic
(Scottish Cup, May 2016)
- Celtic 2-0 Rangers
(Scottish League Cup, February 2015)
- Celtic 3-0 Rangers
(Scottish Premier League, April 2012)
- Rangers 3-2 Celtic
(Scottish Premier League, March 2012)