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Gordon Smith: Rangers boss Pedro Caixinha has a tactical question to answer ahead of Celtic clash

Pedro Caixinha (SNS Group)
Pedro Caixinha (SNS Group)

SATURDAY will be a big day for all the players making their Old Firm debuts.

And an absolutely massive day for Pedro Caixinha.

The Rangers manager was tested last season when he had to deal with two matches against Celtic in the space of a few days.

It has to be said, it was an examination he failed.

Having lost the first match 2-0 playing one way, specifically with a midfield diamond, he had the opportunity to go back to the drawing board to come up with a new approach.

Instead, he sent out the same formation playing in the same shape.

The result? Celtic scored five goals at Ibrox – for the first time in their history – to only one in response.

Neither the performance, nor the response, would have gained any respect from a support who expect to see their team competitive in the fixture, regardless of circumstance.

Especially given the fact Graeme Murty, acting as interim manager prior to Caixinha’s appointment, led the club to a creditable 1-1 draw at Celtic Park.

He didn’t do anything fancy to achieve it. He laid his team out in a conventional formation and instructed them to shut down their opponents’ time and space wherever possible.

By doing so, they stayed in the game and, as a consequence, when Clint Hill came up with his late goal they reaped the reward.

I am not saying that’s the answer for this latest renewal of the fixture.

What I will be looking for is a clear sign of a tactical response to the questions Celtic will pose. And, believe me, there will be plenty.

They are not untouchable, however. Paris Saint-Germain reminded us of that with their big win at Celtic Park last week

For all Brendan Rodgers can rightly highlight the fortunes PSG have spent, the fact remains these defeats are wounding.

The likes of Olivier Ntcham, who has impressed since his £4.5-million move from Manchester City, will have had his confidence bruised by an experience which saw him struggle to keep up.

Don’t forget either that Moussa Dembele, who hit the hat-trick in that 5-1 win at Ibrox, has been out for a long time.

Even if he plays, he is unlikely to pose the same threat he did then.

Rangers, meanwhile, have some positives to take into the game.

We don’t know yet if Alfredo Morelos has what it takes to score in the derby. But he can certainly do so against everyone else.

He has impressed as a decent striker.

Daniel Candeias is another who has done enough from the wide areas to suggest he is capable of causing Celtic problems.

And then we have Bruno Alves and Graham Dorrans.

The two men are experienced internationalists, capable of dominating their respective areas of central-defence and centre-midfield.

If they can win their battles, and Morelos can take his chances, then Rangers will have a chance. Definitely.

My gut feeling, however, is that this first derby of the season will end as a draw.

That result would be liable to leave fans wanting more and would also buy Caixinha more time to develop his side.

I wish debutants of both teams good luck and hope someone manages to enjoy the sort of dream introduction I was fortunate enough to have on my own Old Firm debut, 40 years ago this month.

Then, I scored twice to help Rangers fight back from a 2-0 half-time deficit to record a 3-2 win.

Derek Johnstone also netted, Johannes Edvaldsson got both Celtic’s goals. But what I remember most is loving every second.

Forget nerves, this fixture is an experience to be relished.