Ange Postecoglou has been tasked with returning Celtic to the top of Scottish football, but the former Socceroos boss will have to outsmart Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, who just pulled off an invincible season with Rangers.
This season, the focus shifts from the pitch to the technical area, where the key battle between these hated Old Firm foes is set to take place.
Celtic is rebuilding after its nine-year domestic reign was ended by Rangers last season, with former Yokohoma F. Marinos and Melbourne Victory coach Ange Postecoglou brought in to replace Neil Lennon in a major coup for Australian football.
Postecoglou has finally realised his dream of coaching in Europe, but his first assignment will be the biggest of his career – to reclaim Scottish supremacy from a Rangers side peaking under Steven Gerrard.
Here are the key areas where this fascinating tactical tussle could be won and lost.
Ange's big advantage - Experience
The Postecoglou name may not carry the same gravitas as his cross-town counterpart in Gerrard, but the Australian’s winning track record should not be underestimated.
The 55 year-old boasts five league titles in Australia and Japan, while guiding the Socceroos to AFC Asian Cup glory in 2015. In his most recent stint at J.League powerhouse Yokohama F. Marinos, Ange lead the club to its first domestic title in 15 years.
Postecoglou comes to Glasgow with 25 years of managerial experience, having overcome virtually every challenge that comes with being a manager, while Gerrard is only three-years into his first senior role.
Ange won his first league title as a manager with NSL side South Melbourne in 1998, while Gerrard was cutting his teeth in Liverpool’s youth academy and dreaming of a senior debut.
To Gerrard’s credit, he hasn’t had to face the adversity of most managers thanks to his remarkable start, but it remains to be seen how the scouser will handle some of the pitfalls which may lie ahead.
In Gerrard's favour – momentum and time
Ange may have two decades of experience over Gerrard, but the 41 year-old has wasted no time in establishing himself as one of football’s elite managers, following his remarkable achievements to date at Ibrox.
The gulf between Celtic and Rangers was staggering before Gerrard took over in 2018. Fast forward three years to 2020-2021 when Rangers finished the campaign unbeaten and 25-points clear at the SPFL summit on 103 points.
Rangers 55th league title was made sweeter by denying Celtic an historic 10th consecutive league title in the process and the club’s momentum has shown no signs of weaning following a dominant 2-1 win over Real Madrid in pre-season.
Crucially, time is on Gerrard’s side after his exploits last season - a luxury which may not be afforded to his Australian counterpart after a couple of disappointing results in pre-season, including a 6-2 hammering against West Ham United.
Postecoglou’s philosophy will take time to implement, but with agitated fans demanding immediate success, there are concerns the 2015 Asian Cup winner won’t be afforded the patience he needs to succeed long term.
He will have to be ready by round four, when Celtic travels to Ibrox to take on Rangers for the season’s first instalment of the Old Firm derby.