Off-field headlines and rumours have overshadowed Rangers’ preparations for the first Old Firm derby of the campaign but while the ‘Gers financial problems adorn front and back pages, for punters, the Ibrox showdown could actually result in a bank balance boost.
Ally McCoist’s men are a solitary point ahead of rivals Celtic at the top of the SPL and bookies also expect the hosts to have the edge in this contest, Sportingbet installing them as 6/4 favourites. The Hoops meanwhile, are rated at 19/10 by bet365 and it’s 12/5 with Skybet to finish all square but the best bet has to be the same firm’s 5/2 for whistle-blower Craig Thomson to point to the spot at some stage.
There have been four penalties awarded in the last five meetings between the two sides at Ibrox and with passions high, rash challenges, as ever, are likely to be plentiful, even in the respective 18-yard boxes. On a similar theme, the man-in-the-middle is 2/1 courtesy of Ladbrokes to send a player for an early bath and that certainly shouldn’t be ruled out given the occasion and the fact that Thomson issued two red cards in his last match, at Livingston.
With flutters on a draw always popular in Old Firm clashes, bookies aren’t taking any chances where a 1-1 scoreline is concerned, Ladbrokes’ 11/2 the top price and Stan James’ 10/11 for both teams to find the net could attract cash. Surprisingly however, at least one of the duo has failed to notch in seven of the last eleven SPL renewals of this fixture and it’s worth considering 21/20 for at least one of the teams to draw a blank.
Steven Naismith looks like the man most likely to ensure Rangers don’t misfire. The Scotland attacker has struck four times in six league outings and he’s a tempting 2/1 with Paddy Power to grab his fifth of the season at any time. Partybets meanwhile, chalk 6/1 against Naismith breaking the deadlock and it’s even money (Betfred) for the opener to arrive after the 27th minute.