Celtic might be top of the tree at Christmas, but the gap between Brendan Rodgers’ side and their Old Firm rivals is closer than it has ever been since Rangers were demoted from the top flight away back in 2012.
Steven Gerrard’s side are far from the finished article, but they have made great strides under the former Liverpool skipper. And, for the first time in over half a decade, a combined XI of players representing Celtic and Rangers isn’t entirely made up by those wearing green.
Allan McGregor, Rangers
The first pick is one of the toughest. Both Celtic and Rangers have experienced goalkeepers who remain top class custodians.
But while Craig Gordon is still as solid as ever, McGregor has been sensational since returning to Ibrox from Hull City in the summer. Virtuoso display after virtuoso display, can the 36-year-old add to his three Scottish Premiership titles?
James Tavernier, Rangers
While Mikael Lustig increasingly looks like a weak-link at Celtic, Rangers’ own right-back is arguably the first name on the team sheet. Swashbuckling and attack-minded Tavernier is a major source of creativity from the flanks - and has even scored nine goals this season (albeit most of those being penalties).
Dedryck Boyata, Celtic
How much longer Boyata will be a Celtic player remains to be seen. The Belgian World Cup semi-finalist is out of contract in the summer and has made no secret of his desire for a new challenge.
But it is a credit to Boyata’s professionalism that, despite all the speculation, he has got his head down in recent months to produce some outstanding displays at the back.
Filip Benkovic, Celtic
There is a reason why Leicester City paid £13 million to sign the Dinamo Kiev defender in the summer. And, since moving to Celtic on loan, Benkovic has shown that he is worth every penny.
Benkovic has shored up a previously porous Celtic backline and Rodgers will be thrilled to learn that he’s staying until the end of the season - despite talk of a potential January re-call.
Kieran Tierney, Celtic
Arguably the best player in Scottish football, left-back Tierney is surely the first Celtic player since Virgil van Dijk who looks destined to reach the very top of the world game.
The academy graduate plays pretty much every game, either at left-back or in a back three, and continues to resist interest from the Premier League due to his love of his boyhood club.
Scott Brown, Celtic
Brown has struggled with injuries of late with his short-term future in doubt. The 33-year-old is out of contract next summer and has been tipped to spend his autumn days soaking up the sun Down Under.
But when fit, Brown remains as reliable as ever. A warrior of a midfielder with underrated technical ability.
Tom Rogic, Celtic
Brendan Rodgers’ ‘Magic Man’, Rogic is the professional who makes things happen for Celtic in the centre of the park. Blessed with excellent footwork, a velvet touch and the ability to produce something special out of very little, the Aussie international is almost unrivalled in Scottish football.
Scott Arfield, Rangers
A summer signing from Burnley, big things were expected of Arfield at Rangers and he hasn’t disappointed.
The Dechmont-born Canada international has added goals to The Gers’ midfield, with six in all competitions so far. Meanwhile, his energetic approach has made him a key player under Gerrard.
Callum McGregor, Celtic
The fact that the inspirational Brown has not been missed during his spell on the sidelines speaks volumes about McGregor’s class and versatility. Frequently a much-maligned presence, no one is questioning the academy graduate now.
A big game player, could McGregor replace Brown as Celtic’s skipper?
James Forrest, Celtic
So frequently frustrating, Forrest has put his inconsistencies behind him with a remarkable run of form throughout 2018. The long-serving winger has assisted 15 goals this season and scored 11 of his own, including four in a 6-0 away win at St Johnstone.
He’s been almost unstoppable at times.
Alfredo Morelos, Rangers
While the jury is still out on Odsonne Edouard at Celtic, Morelos has been an irrepressible goal scoring force on the blue half of Glasgow – when he isn’t being sent for an early bath, that is.
‘El Bufalo’ inspired Rangers to a 2-1 win away at St Johnstone on the final game before Christmas to take his tally to 19 goals in all competitions – one more than last season’s total.
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