Occasionally I will write articles called Beyond Barca and as the name indicates, topics could range from anything (as long as it’s football related), except FC Barcelona.
1. Old Firm
I along with millions of others are excited by this prospect of a game and it is impossible to deny how much Scottish football has missed this game. During the administration process Rangers has faced and the ordeal of being relegated to the lowest tier of Scottish football, Celtic has won the Scottish Premiership title on each occasion. With Celtic leading the pack, Scottish football has become as one dimensional as its ever been. The Old Firm is definitely the equivalent of so many relationships between 2 bitter rivals, such as Real Madrid and Barca, as Florentino Perez says ‘if Barcelona didn’t exist, we’d have to invent them’ – I feel this too applies to Celtic and Rangers.
The fact that this match still has such emotive connotations attached even in a David v Goliath dimension, is amazing. I believe that fact that it’s a cup game and a one off as far as this season is concerned makes it even more exciting, who knows when revenge could next be on the cards for the losing side, especially as Rangers are not sweeping the Scottish Championship as most expected them to. Two years of tension has built up for this Old Firm derby making this unique in comparison to other fixtures between the two. Astonishingly, an U-17 Glasgow Cup final match between the two attracted 8,000 fans and the atmosphere was rife inside Celtic Park – this is merely child play to what Hampden Park will experience.
The tale of the tape would have you to expect Celtic to win by a fine margin, but in any cup competition, it’s not so simple. Lovenkrands says that “It’s a derby, so everything goes out the window. It is 50-50,” and as cliche as it sounds, its true. Alex McLeish said in a press conference, “The pressure is on Celtic” and Chris Sutton appropriately remarked that Celtic could win blindfolded, the incentives to win on Rangers side of the field certainly isn’t lacking. This extra pressure on Celtic may actually see them crumble, or on the other hand, it could result in what the majority are expecting. Either way, it’s a huge sigh of relief for both set of fans because even though Celtic fans claim they are playing in a new derby against Rangers Newco and have paid a Scottish newspaper to acknowledge this, they and the whole world knows exactly what this is – Celtic v Rangers. The Old Firm.
Gareth Bale has been jeered again by Madrid fans after missing two clearcut chances and this will add fuel to the fire – the Daily Star seems to love creating transfer rumours between clubs and players, it’s almost as if they pick a random club and name out of a hat. Gareth Bale on the other hand, has stated that he couldn’t see himself at Manchester United which indicates van Gaal isn’t going to break the transfer fee record any time soon. Ancelotti praised his performance in the post match conference, after all, he assisted Benzema unselfishly. As well as this, he scored a vital penalty against Cordoba to secure 3 points after Cristiano Ronaldo had gotten himself sent off only a week ago. Real Madrid fans are very much inclined to the present, and Spanish fan culture isn’t quite the same as England where booing a home player is considered heretical behaviour, it is merely an act of disappointment, to let that particular player know they aren’t performing to their expected standard.
I feel this is the burden he and the rest of us should expect, to come to the world’s richest club as reportedly the world’s most expensive signing to play in front of the most demanding fans week in and week out – is always, and will continue to always be a tough task. I find that Bale is improving different facets of his game, and although he isn’t hitting his highest gear as of yet, he has still made vital contributions to the team having scored 6 in his last 10 matches. His presence in the squad has divided the Madrid fans and his price tag was always going to lead to such a scenario. Yet, in my opinion this is merely an act of tough love, as Benzema stated, “All of the great players who have played for Madrid have been booed.” Cristiano Ronaldo, Zidane and Casillas have all been booed at the Bernabeu – they have 25 major trophies between them. This should surely resonate with Bale, because that certainly isn’t bad company to be involved with.