Neil McCann: Unbeaten season is - and should be - important to Rangers

Neil McCann graphic

Despite Steven Gerrard telling the media after the Old Firm game that talk of an invincible league season is a "sideshow", it will absolutely matter to Rangers.

And so it should. Although winning the Scottish Cup is also important, there is no question Rangers should be targeting an unbeaten campaign.

After the win over Celtic at Ibrox in January, Gerrard and his men played it down, even though he probably felt the same emotion on the inside as he had displayed when they won at Celtic Park the season before. It is the same now.

I think Rangers went to Celtic Park thinking: "We're just not going to lose this game." They did not play badly, but they were missing James Tavernier at full-back, who is such a fundamental part of how they play, because it allows the two number 10s to move inside. Leon Balogun simply does not offer the same threat.

Celtic targeted that right-back area and went quite direct at times, looking for balls in behind in order to exploit Rangers' high line.

John Kennedy opted for a similar set-up to the one Neil Lennon used at Ibrox in January when - despite losing 1-0 - Celtic had the better of the game and managed to stop Rangers' full-backs from marauding forward.

So it was no surprise to me that Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie again played as the widest midfielders to shut down that threat again, and with Mohamed Elyounoussi and Odsonne Edouard up top, it caused Rangers a lot of problems. Allan McGregor produced three or four brilliant saves yet again.

Celtic carried the greater threat and created more opportunities, and I don't know why Edouard didn't just pull the trigger instead of going down under Borna Barisic's challenge. For me, Willie Collum made the right call not to give a penalty.

There is an argument Edouard had to ride the challenge, but I don't think that was a reason for him to go down. I felt he had the opportunity to take the shot, but was expecting contact when none came.

'Rangers will take some stopping next term'

As Rangers move closer to an unbeaten season, people will compare the team to Celtic's invincibles from 2016-17, when Brendan Rodgers was in charge.

Unlike Rodgers' side, Rangers can't win the treble but there will still be analysis of their league campaigns in terms of points, goals scored etc.

I think it's unfair to compare teams like that, but I do wonder how they would have fared playing against one another. Maybe one day in the computer world someone might throw that together and see if we can get a virtual outcome. Both are terrific sides.

For next season, Rangers right now are in a strong position because they are champions. To become a champion and dethrone someone takes an unbelievable amount of work. But to stay there is harder.

Every champion will tell you that, whether it's in boxing, snooker, you name it.

Celtic will be smarting and will try to regroup. It's a difficult rebuild they've got because they've got the managerial situation to sort out, the playing squad, director of football, as well as a new chief executive. It's a full revamp.

They're going against a Rangers side just now that are rejuvenated. There's a power about them and a belief in the club that they're back to where they think they belong. And that's going to take some stopping.

Top Stories

Around Scottish sport