With the first Old Firm derby of the season on the horizon, things are as tight as expected between Rangers and Celtic.
It’s advantage Celtic in terms of dropped points but their game in hand with Aberdeen is yet to be played and they’ve still to travel to the Scottish Premiership’s hardest away grounds.
Rangers by contrast have already been to Pittodrie, Almondvale and Easter Round, amongst the hardest away fixtures of the season.
But after huffing, puffing and desperately trying to get their way with the fixture list, Celtic’s wish to have fans back in Celtic Park for this crunch match with Rangers will not be coming true.
Coronavirus restrictions being tightened means that there is no hope of this OId Firm being played in front of supporters despite Celtic’s best efforts for it to happen.
The seemingly random SPFL fixture generating computer had positioned this tie as the last of the first round of fixtures, as per Neil Lennon’s demands, to try give crowds the best chance.
Now, Rangers go to Celtic Park knowing that they will not have to play in front of a crowd in a stadium they took three points from the last time they visited.
Rangers also go into the tie the side on better form. Even if Celtic have been eking out results, there’s hardly a fan out there who thinks they’ve been playing well.
Rangers are a different test altogether, and Celtic’s determination to have the game played in front of supporters proves that they are well aware of it.
Whilst you cannot write a solid Celtic performance off, they will need to improve for the visit of a Rangers side showing ever-increasing tenacity.
So far the international break has not been kind to our rivals either, with confusion over whether or not star striker Odsonne Edouard can play after testing positive for Covid-19.
Some reports are claiming Edouard has to self-isolate for seven days in France, and a further 10 when he returns to the UK after picking the virus up on international duty [Daily Record].
First-team midfielder Ryan Christie is also set to miss the match as he must self-isolate for reportedly playing the PlayStation with Southampton’s Stuart Armstrong whilst with Scotland [Scottish Sun].
The ex-Celtic midfielder has also tested positive for the coronavirus.
Celtic’s statement in the aftermath of the incident – much like Arsenal’s – smacks of petty entitlement amid the pandemic and is not a good look for either clubs.
“Following today’s news regarding Ryan Christie, he has reiterated his adherence to all relevant protocols while on International duty,” reads a Celtic statement.
“In light of this, Celtic confirmed today that it aims to open dialogue with the Scottish Government and other authorities to fully understand the self-isolation procedures for those players who continue to deliver negative test results, as Ryan has.”
Sorry Celtic, but dem’s the rules.
There’s a wider discussion to be had about the suitability of the international break during this period but that statement smacks of entitled discontent.
It makes it look like Celtic are fighting an unfair battle against some kind of external force which is deliberately working against them. Like they’re the victims of unjust treatment.
The crazy thing is, given the SPFL’s adherence to their early season demands regarding the fixture list, the exact opposite is true.
Celtic might’ve got their way with the malleable SPFL in August, but they’re acting pretty entitled about not getting their wish in October.
So whilst Celtic huff and puff off the field, Rangers must retain their focus on it.
Steven Gerrard and co will have their fingers crossed that none of the Ibrox club’s players come back with injuries or positive tests in the coming week.
Because as the pressure mounts ahead of the first Old Firm of the season – and despite Celtic’s best efforts otherwise – Rangers have a massive opportunity to lay down a Scottish Premiership title marker in an empty Parkhead.