|Venue: Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow Date: Sunday, 29 August Time: 12:00 BST|
|Coverage: Listen live on Sportsound and follow text updates on the BBC Sport website & app; watch highlights on Sportscene|
Former Celtic striker Scott McDonald calls it “the first 50/50 Old Firm derby in a long time”.
Both Rangers and Celtic go into the game after indifferent starts to the campaign, picking up six points from three league games and failing in their respective Champions League quests.
With strengths to be fearful of and weaknesses to expose, plus the return of a hostile crowd and a Covid-hit Rangers to bear in mind, what key issues may decide where the game is won and lost?
BBC Scotland discusses the match with McDonald, ex-Rangers striker Mark Hateley and former Ibrox defender Richard Foster.
The impact of European excursions
Both sides made hard work of progressing to the Europa League group stage on Thursday. Rangers travelled to Armenia without their manager and several key first-team players after a Covid outbreak and edged past 10-man hosts Alashkert.
A six-hour flight home is hardly ideal preparation after a gruelling game in stifling heat and it remains to be seen who will return to the side for Sunday.
Celtic’s defensive woes were exposed again in a 2-1 second-leg defeat in Alkmaar, but Ange Postecoglou’s men scraped through on aggregate despite enduring a torrid night in the Netherlands.
Might those issues at the back be exposed again at Ibrox?
The managers’ approach
Postecoglou is set in his way of playing energetic, attacking football and that has been evident in Celtic’s recent league games, with back-to-back six-goal wins against Dundee and St Mirren.
McDonald is certain his fellow Australian will deploy the same style on Sunday, regardless of playing the champions on their own turf.
“The only way Celtic know is to be on the front foot,” he tells BBC Scotland. “The best defence for them is to attack and dominate the ball, Ange will look do that. They’ll press relentlessly and try put real pressure on Rangers.
“We see within Ange’s demeanour, he fully backs himself and his philosophy. We’ve seen that through the tough period he had at the beginning of his tenure.”
However, former Rangers full-back Foster believes the expansive nature of Celtic’s play could fall into the hands of the home side.
And despite a shaky start to the season, both Foster and Hateley are in agreement that Ibrox boss Steven Gerrard should stick to the formula that has delivered five wins in the last six Old Firm clashes.
“Gerrard will go with what he knows,” Foster says. “He has players that can play at that level, under that intense spotlight, and they have done it so well.”
Hateley adds: “Gerrard’s got players there that have experienced it. He knows the players that play well in Old Firm games. He’s got the tried and trusted that didn’t lose a derby game last season.”
Flip of fortune in both goals
There was no doubt one area Celtic had to address in the summer was the goalkeeping position.
A series of uninspiring performances from Vasilis Barkas, who joined last summer, prompted the Parkhead side to sign Joe Hart from Tottenham Hotspur.
The former Manchester City custodian was at fault for AZ Alkmaar’s opener on Thursday, but has provided calm and assurance to a young and inexperienced defence.
However, although the 34-year-old has played at the highest level and challenged for top honours, Foster believes that pressure does not compares with an Old Firm derby.
“I’ve watched Man City players pick Man United players up off the ground – that’s not an Old Firm game,” he says. “He can expect one of the most intense atmospheres he’s played in. The fans will be on him every kick, every catch, every throw.
“Any sign of weakness, they’ll be on it. That’s going to be key, how he deals with that. He is a top goalkeeper and he’s capable of making exceptional saves, but how does he cope with being Celtic goalkeeper at Ibrox?”
Up the other end, Rangers’ Allan McGregor has shown time and time again what he is capable of in this fixture, but there is uncertainty over the 39-year-old’s availability after missing the trip to Armenia.
Second-choice goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin was also absent, with Robby McCrorie deputising in his debut appearance. If he is called upon again, how will the Ibrox academy graduate handle such an occasion?
Unique atmosphere returns
It is unlikely Hart and McCrorie will be the only derby debutants. If Postecoglou sticks to the same line-up that played in Alkmaar, at least four of his side will be experiencing their first taste of an Old Firm atmosphere.
With Sunday’s derby set to be the first played in front of fans for 20 months, former Celtic man McDonald says they can expect an “electric” crowd.
“These games can spook you,” he tells BBC Scotland. “Especially with your first one being away from home as well.
“The place will be charged and Rangers will be fully backed. It’s up to Celtic to upset the party when they get there and certainly the way they’ve been performing at the moment they can do that with their free-flowing football.”
Curious case of ‘game-changer’ Kent
Rangers winger Ryan Kent was another who did not travel to Armenia, but it is unclear if he will be available for Sunday.
Despite a dip in form, the 24-year-old always seems to turn it on for Old Firm games and Foster feels the Ibrox side will have a “game-changer” on their hands if he makes it, which will set up an intriguing battle with Celtic right-back Anthony Ralston.
“Kent can electrify a crowd,” Foster says. “He can get them on-side by a bit of skill. He can beat players with a bit of skill and pace.
“Kent on last season’s form gets the better of Ralston. But Kent on current form, Ralston gets the better. It’s whether or not Kent has enough about him.”
Can Celtic ‘block holes’ in defence?
Despite blistering attacking displays, Celtic’s defensive game needs work. Postecoglou’s backline have conceded 11 goals in their opening 10 games in all competitions.
And a shoulder injury to left-back Greg Taylor on Thursday means teenager Adam Montgomery may be added to an already inexperienced and vulnerable defence.
“There are a lot of holes,” ex-Rangers striker Hateley says. “We’ve seen what Rangers can do to a team that leave space. That will be their problem.
Former Ibrox defender Foster adds: “Celtic don’t have a dominant centre-half. They don’t have a Connor Goldson. Their defence looks nervous.
“Their biggest concern is how they deal with [Alfredo] Morelos, I’m not sure [Stephen] Welsh and [Carl] Starfelt are up to it.”
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