One of the elements of analysing Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic over the past two seasons has been reliable consistency.

This has applied to performances and results but also how those have been generated.

For example, here are two pass network reports from StatsBomb:

The map on the left was the most recent game versus Ross County while the one on the right was January 2 draw at Ibrox. Outside of the wingers have been a bit higher on average versus County, the maps were very similar. 

Postecoglou did alter his tactics in the Champions League some, with Reo Hatate having dropped deeper to play in more of a dual pivot in midfield beside Callum McGregor.

Here was the pass map from the first Real Madrid fixture:

While these were average positions and player positioning has been anything but static under Postecoglou, we could see more of a 4-2-3-1 shape versus what is more of a 2-3-5 attacking shape above.

Given Celtic’s domestic success this season and Saturday’s derby taking place at Parkhead, it will be something of a surprise if the champions do not track more of the 2-3-5 game model. 

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On the other hand, it would not be a surprise if Michael Beale’s Rangers approach the derby with some modifications of both personnel, as well as tactics, following Celtic’s triumph in the League Cup final.

Here was the pass network from the January 2 derby:

Despite obtaining a 2-2 result, Celtic were relatively successful in crowding out Rangers from the centre of the pitch.

Note the relatively wide average positioning of two players expected to be potentially key aspects to Rangers’ plans for the upcoming derby: Ryan Kent and Malik Tillman. 

StatsBomb does not cover League Cup games, so here were all actions, via Wyscout, for Kent and Tillman in the League Cup final in February:

Once again, note how neither was very successful at being involved in play centrally in the game. Heatmaps from the January 2 derby were similar. 

While obviously against a far inferior opponent, Rangers’ game last weekend against Dundee United may have offered a preview of what Beale may have in store for Saturday:

Does that average map look familiar? While the specific positional rotations were different, the result was comparable to Celtic’s 2-3-5 shown at the start of this piece.

Note the average positioning of Kent and Tillman. Here were their total actions:

Both were far more central in their involvements and, before you poo-poo this nuance due to the lower level of competition, these were against St Johnstone on January 28:

While Celtic have retained the nine-point gap in the league and significant superiority when it comes to underlying defensive and goalkeeper performance metrics, Beale’s Rangers have largely matched Celtic’s attacking output since the World Cup.

While Tillman has played poorly in the three derby games against Celtic this season, Beale appears to have moved towards using him, and to a lesser extent Kent, as a second striker.

With Hatate’s form since the World Cup and before his recent injury drawing talk of player of the year consideration, here were attacking and on-ball value-oriented radars comparing the two players over the period:

With Celtic’s midfield enduring a spate of injuries recently, and hopes that Aaron Mooy will join Hatate in returning in time for Saturday’s game, the best guess here is that Beale’s plan will be to try and wrestle control of the centre of the pitch away from Celtic.

If he does, and Nicolas Raskin is fit and selected, the Hoops may be facing the first major test at Parkhead since the Champions League.