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Scottish Football - Football: Title race heats up as end of season split nears

Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic and Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s Rangers head into this weekend’s round of fixtures with just three points separating the two sides at the top of the Scottish Premiership.

Despite what can only be described as a disaster of a 2020/21 season under Neil Lennon, Postecoglou has rejuvenated Celtic with his eye-catching style of football and inspired signings from underutilised markets, finding his side leading the race for the title.

On the other side of the city, Van Bronckhorst will be hoping to recapture the form that saw the Gers blow away a star-studded Borussia Dortmund side in the Europa League just last week.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst couldn’t have got off to a better start as Rangers boss, taking over from Steven Gerrard in November and winning his first seven games on the bounce, extending their lead at the top from four points to six.

But after a poor start to the season, Celtic kept their foot firmly on the gas. Scoring at will, they’ve won 19 of their last 22 matches - including the 3-0 win against Rangers in February - drawing the other three.

Rangers have now won just four of their last nine, and have seen their six-point lead fall to a three-point deficit.

However, the Gers will expect to take all three points against Aberdeen 3/10 on Saturday to put pressure on their rivals, who play Sunday afternoon.

After that comes a trip to struggling Dundee, then the all-important Old Firm at Ibrox the week after. Should Rangers take maximum points from those games, the 7/4 about them winning consecutive titles will be considerably shorter.

Crucial to their chances of success will be Alfredo Morelos, who’s be in excellent goalscoring form since the start of December, scoring eight in his last 11, as well as the second in that famous win at Dortmund.

The Bhoys will no doubt be looking at the title race through a similar lens; win their next three against Livingston, Ross County and Rangers, and they may well be out of sight, though they’re less reliant on one man for goals than their rivals.

Despite averaging more than two goals a game this season, no one has reached double figures in the league, with Liel Abada top scorer on nine, compensated with 14 players finding the net on more than one occasion.

Rangers v Aberdeen

After a spell where Aberdeen seemed to have Rangers’ number - the champions went through a spell against the Dons winning just once in seven - Rangers are now unbeaten in 10 against the Pittodrie side, winning six, and after consecutive draws with them this season, Van Bronckhorst’s side will be keen to make amends.

While Amad Diallo and Steven Davis are set to miss out, Fil Helander, Ryan Jack and Aaron Ramsey all provide a boost to Van Bronckhorst with their returns to fitness.

At this point in the season, and having dropped so many points since the winter break, it’s not much of a stretch to say this is a must-win game for Rangers.

Livingston v Celtic

Off the back of a comfortable yet uninspiring win over St Mirren midweek, Celtic travel to Almondvale on Sunday, where they will aim to maintain - or potentially extend - their three-point gap at the top of the table.

Despite the vast gap in resources between the two clubs, shockingly, the Bhoys have not won away from home against Livingston since February 2007, with the most recent meeting at the Tony Macaroni Arena ending in a narrow 1-0 win for David Martindale’s men.

Sitting 4th, in the Premiership, the Lions will once again fancy their chances although they’ll have to bring their A-game to take points from an incredibly efficient Celtic side.

Despite not firing on all cylinders in recent weeks from an offensive perspective, Celtic head into Sunday’s game unbeaten in 23 league games, and will consider themselves heavy favourites to take all the points on offer.

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