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How much does Gerrard need a win against Celtic?

With three games left of the Scottish Premiership season, Rangers are yet to lose. They are 20 points clear of their nearest rivals, having conceded 12 goals, and won the title earlier than any other team in history.

They have achieved a level of dominance over Scottish football this season that hasn’t been seen since Brendan Rodgers’ glorious first campaign at Celtic.

Pre-season, they would have bitten your arm off to win the league title. Their form leading into the first Covid lockdown suggested that Celtic were a shoe-in for ‘Ten in a Row’, and few expected Gerrard to bounce back.

But they have rebounded so convincingly that expectations have turned on their head. It feels like a minor disappointment that they haven’t won more, given how much better they are than everyone else.

For all their dominance of the Premiership, the domestic cups have reminded us that they are not infallible. A late goal cost them the Betfred Cup against St Mirren, and history repeated itself when St Johnstone came to town in the Scottish Cup quarters last weekend.

Left unmarked at the back post, Saints keeper Zander Clark was able to bundle one over the line, and the resulting penalty shootout ended Gerrard’s hopes of a domestic double.

The cup exits have changed the narrative surrounding Gerrard at Ibrox substantially. We’re still a long way from #GerrardOut trending on Twitter again, but it has certainly cooled talk that he is ready-made for a top Premier League job.

They have also piled the stakes on ahead of Sunday’s Old Firm derby. With no more trophies to contest, the distinction of an invincible league season is the last remaining honour.

But Gerrard is right to put the importance of that in the shadow of the derby’s intrinsic significance. Because for all an undefeated season would be nice, it shouldn’t detract from the fact they have already accomplished the big mission for the season.

There have been whispers on social media that this season has in fact been a failure for Rangers because of the lack of additional silverware, but they are simply victims of their own success.

The only reason anyone is even having that conversation is because they have raised the bar so high with their own performances, smashing all of their original expectations and leaving themselves with something scarcely attainable to aim for.

Only three times in the history of Scottish football has anyone finished the league season undefeated. Two of those came in the 1800s, when a league season was 18 games. The other was Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic team. It’s something to aim for, but it’s not something Gerrard needs for this season to be fondly remembered.

If he does need a win on Sunday, it is to stamp down and inflict more psychological damage on Celtic, who remain hopeful of regaining their crown next season.

Winning the title has been one thing, but retaining it against a Celtic team who will surely pose far more of a threat is another. The Hoops will have a new manager and a rejuvenated squad; the last thing they need, from a Rangers perspective, is the encouragement that comes from a late-season derby win.

They haven’t beaten Rangers at any point this season despite dominating many of the previous encounters. That’s the sort of thing that breeds self-doubt. If it carries on, it could cost them in future seasons, so if Rangers are to sustain their dominance of Scottish football in the years ahead, they need to keep it going for as long as possible.

Does Steven Gerrard need a win on Sunday? He could certainly do with one.

It would restore pride after a couple of damaging cup defeats, it would keep their chances of an undefeated season alive, and it would be another kick in the ribs for their rivals just as they get back to their feet.

But either way, it won’t come to define what has been an extraordinary season for Gerrard and his team.

Source 90min

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