Studying the data from StatsBomb for Celtic and Rangers in the league can seem like a slightly fruitless exercise.

Why? Such is the dominance and gap with the rest of the league, that the numbers and percentiles for the top two are very similar. Differences in strengths and weaknesses are difficult to discern due to both teams accumulating chances and goals whilst giving up little at the other end. So it is in the small marginal differences that the interest lies.


The overall picture for attacking output.

Despite what I have just said about this view, there IS virtual daylight in the difference between the teams’ performances. Although Kyogo Furuhashi is well down on last year's goal return and Celtic have had well-documented issues with wing play quality and are missing the consistent goal output from Jota and Liel Abada, they still maintain by far the more potent attack.

Crucially, they generate a higher xG value per shot. The differences are tiny, down to three decimal places, but this is an average over EVERY shot, so you’d multiply this by around 20 per game and then over 38 matches. Celtic generate clearer shots (those without defenders blocking) and from a high press scenario.

A warning for the upcoming Celtic Park derby is that the away side does generate more shots from counter-attacking situations.


If we dig into shooting a bit more.

You’ll notice both teams’ shot on ball value (OBV) are in the lower percentiles. I think this is down to the sheer volume of shots dampening the averages.

Rangers tend to concede fewer shots to counter-attacks. This may be due to their rest defence usually comprising four players (two centre-backs and two holding midfielders) as opposed to three by Celtic (the two centre-backs and Callum McGregor). Rangers do generate more shots from open play, but they tend to be of lower quality – more longer efforts from outside the box.

Expected goals

Celtic are only ahead by one metric as mentioned above – the average xG per shot, though this is the most important one. They simply generate a higher xG overall averaging 2.05 per game compared to Rangers' 1.9.

The Blues have the better defensive record in suppressing opposition xG and concede fewer from corners and set pieces. They also allow a lower xG average per shot. However, they will be without their primary defender Connor Goldson who is plagued with hip flexor issues. Meanwhile Celtic’s defence, much changed over the season, has a rare stability to it at this crucial juncture.

Rangers have generated a higher xG value over Celtic this season (5.39 to 3.89) but much of this is game-state related. That is, in all three matches Celtic has been leading and Rangers have been chasing. Celtic generate more xG when the games are level (0.94 to 0.55).


Focusing on defending now.

Generally Celtic have the edge in attacking performance whilst the visitors edge the defensive metrics. The challengers allow less xG per shot conceded as they tend to be more heavily manned in the middle of the pitch. Celtic give up more chances from set pieces and counter-attacks which will both be risk areas at the weekend.

Celtic do play a higher line, averaging positioning at 49.99 metres from their own goal compared to 47.91 by Rangers. Despite averages over the season against the other teams, it is more likely that Celtic will pose a significant threat on the break as they have three quick forwards and Rangers centre-backs Leon Balogun and John Souttar can be a little slow on the turn chasing channel balls.

Also, the trends in xG conceded have been rising from Rangers and falling from Celtic and we’ll hope for those trends to continue at the weekend.


Both sides tend to dominate the ball in games versus the rest of the league although Celtic average 69 per cent possession and Rangers 64 per cent. In matches between the two, the possession has been (Celtic first) 49-51, 55-45 and 46-54. The first and third ties were at Ibrox. With no away fans at Celtic Park expect Celtic to dominate possession here.

Both sides have similar pressing and counter-pressing stats against the rest of the league albeit Celtic generates more chances off of it. With the pace in the front three expect a very aggressive Celtic pressing operation this weekend. Rangers currently have a motley collection of Fabio Silva and Dujon Sterling supporting striker Cyriel Dessers, none of whom are pressing experts.

Rangers would have an athleticism advantage in midfield however with Todd Cantwell and Mohamed Diomande in particular more energetic off the ball than Reo Hatate and Callum McGregor.

On-ball value

Summarising the OBV comparison at the team level.

With 2.7 to 2.42 Celtic has the higher average OBV with a surprisingly large differential (12 per cent higher). Rangers are stronger in the dribbling and carrying department thanks to Cantwell, Diomande, the full-backs and wingers like Abdullah Sima and Rabbi Matondo. Both sides have the same defensive action OBV.

Otherwise, Celtic has the edge across the other disciplines. Yes – even goalkeeping. Despite the media-led campaign to have Jack Butland anointed greatest ever, he’s pretty average and indeed given the last few matches, his performance levels have dipped below a determined Joe Hart who is eyeing ending his career on a high.

As highlighted earlier, Celtic have a more effective shot OBV and pass OBV. Celtic tend to play a shorter game whilst this season Rangers have gone longer more often in keeping with the rest of the league. Celtic do concede more OBV with the opposition averaging 1.63 but only 1.38 against Rangers. In particular, Celtic don’t defend the dribble as well and the athleticism deficit in midfield doesn’t help here.


Finally, let’s consider team styles.

Rangers rely on set plays to a greater extent and move towards the opposition's goal at pace. Celtic are predictably the most careful in the build-up. Celtic keeps the ball in play longer but do work the ball into better positions before shooting. They are more aggressive out of possession with a higher pressing rate and a much higher defensive line.

Both are equally direct with Celtic mixing the careful build-up with more direct passes to release the speedy forwards earlier.


Much of the data is similar given dominance over the rest of the league. Celtic’s attacking output is generally stronger whilst Rangers’ defensive resilience has been safer. However, both are trending in Celtic’s direction as the season hits the final hurdles.

Home advantage and a cleaner injury record at this stage also benefit the Champions. If the challengers have some of their fast wingers fit then that may assist given Celtic vulnerabilities to being countered. And we know set pieces will always be challenging for a relatively small Celtic side.

But overall, if the better team wins, the championship will likely return to Celtic Park.