Absent from the Scottish Premiership calendar in recent years – thanks to Rangers’ financial woes – the Old Firm derby returns as a regular season fixture with a bang this weekend.
Saturday morning will feel like the end of a biblical journey for Rangers fans as they take their seats at Celtic Park for a 12pm kick-off after wandering their way out of the wilderness of Scottish lower league football, following their 2012 demotion to the Third Division.
Tension will be high in the stands and on the pitch, but has the Celtic v Rangers derby become the UK’s most ill-disciplined in terms of cards handed out?
We had a look at the stats to find out…
To do this we compared the last 15 Old Firm derby clashes against some of the UK’s other well-known rivalry games. Namely the North London and Merseyside derbies, as well as the weekend’s upcoming Manchester derby to see which had the most cards per game on average.
It’s not a shock to find out that the Old Firm tops the table with a whopping 6.2 cards shown by the referee per game on average.
Things seem a little more sedate in the English derbies. Maybe a little surprisingly the North London derby comes in second with 4.87, while the Manchester and Merseyside derbies tie for third on a lowly 4.53 in the card average stakes.
The past 15 meetings of Celtic and Rangers has seen an astonishing 93 cards flashed, with an almost unbelievable 11 reds being shown. The stats suggest referee Willie Collum may need a robotic arm to dish out all the cards he may need to on Saturday.
Let’s be honest, he’ll definitely be busy dealing with Joey Barton battling Scott Brown in midfield.
Since the start of the season Celtic’s defence under Brendan Rodgers has been leaking goals regularly.
Of the ten competitive games the Bhoys have played this season, they’ve only keep a clean sheet twice – conceding 11 goals in the process.
So with Celtic being favourites for the game at , a good value punt might be on them to come from behind to beat the Gers at .
Mark Warburton’s Rangers have had a solid, if unspectacular start on their return to life in the Scottish Premiership.
An argument can be made for them being overpriced at to win on Saturday, given that they are still unbeaten.
Early season draws with Hamilton and Kilmarnock have had the Ibrox faithful murmuring, but one suspects they would take the draw if it was offered to them before kick-off.
Neither side has been shy at hitting the onion sack this season, with Rangers managing to net in every game so far – including five against minnows Peterhead in the League Cup.
Celtic have notched in every game domestically also, and have only been held scoreless twice in Europe by Hapoel Be’er Sheva of Israel and the mighty Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar.
So for over 3.5 goals to be scored in the game might be a tempting sneaky bet to take on. On the other side if you fancy throwing logic out the window, no goal to be scored in the game comes in at .
One thing is for sure, the atmosphere of an Old Firm game has been badly missed from Scotland’s top division and we can’t wait for the first tackle to fly in on Saturday!