Rangers vs Celtic: Match Analysis with ORTEC Data

This article is written with the aid of data and graphics from ORTEC. Modern Fitba currently have a short trial with ORTEC to use their services. We want to purchase data from ORTEC on a permanent basis and continuing covering Scottish football with advanced statistics. We need your help in order to raise the funds necessarily.  

The last round of SPFL Premiership matches of 2018 saw Steven Gerrard’s side beat Celtic to go equal on points with the champions before the winter break.

The heat maps showing the frequency of each team’s action on the ball in different areas illustrate clearly Rangers’ success in putting Celtic under pressure, with the majority of each team’s actions taking place in Celtic’s half:

Combined+heatmap.jpg

Rangers were equally efficient in getting the ball down both flanks, keeping Celtic very busy on all sides. When Celtic did make some inroads into Rangers’ half, there is a stark difference between the left and the right side, with very little Celtic presence in the latter.

Rangers’ positional dominance is again reflected in the teams’ passing maps. The points for each player show the average position in which they attempted their passes, with the thickness of the lines between players increasing with the frequency of passes they made to each other.

Combined+passmap.jpg

While five of Celtic’s starters (in addition to substitutes Ajer and Ralston) had an average position in their own half, this is only seen with two of Rangers’ players. You can see some stark difference between James Tavernier and Mikael Lustig/Ralston right-back positions, Ryan Jack and Scott Brown as the nominally deepest central midfielders, and each team’s forward line, especially how low Mikey Johnson was compared to Alfredo Morelos. Also notice the frequency of passes between Tavernier and Daniel Candeias – with 18 in total to each other it was the highest combination of the game.

To use a more non-analytical term, Rangers very much ‘got in Celtic’s faces’ high up the pitch. Looking at the location of where the team regained possession from Celtic, they made 10 pass interceptions in their opponent’s half, 12 altogether including duels.

Location of where each team regained possession.

Location of where each team regained possession.

In comparison, Celtic only regained possession twice through intercepting passes in Rangers’ half, with a total of only four turnovers fully completed there.

Unsurprisingly, with most of the match being played in Celtic’s half, the home team also dominated when it came to goal scoring chances. Before this game, ORTEC had registered 15.5 attempts on goal per game for Rangers in the league, with 17.6 for Celtic. In the previous league encounter between the two Celtic had 16 attempts compared to Rangers’ 6. In this game it was almost reversed with the home team recording 15 attempts compared to only 7 for Brendan Rodgers’ men.

Rangers+Attempts.jpg

Rangers got into some very good positions with those 15 attempts, 9 coming from within what we label the Danger Zone, which is the area in the middle of the penalty box vertically. In comparison, Celtic only got off two attempts in the same area.

Celtic+Attempts.jpg

That it was a frenetic match overall can be seen in both the passing and possession stats. Celtic attempted 321 passes – their league season average up to this game was 606. They completed 255 for an accuracy of 79% - this is compared to an average of 535 and 88%. The same trends applies to Rangers, who had 233 passing attempts (season average 425) and 158 completions (avg. 344) for a 68% accuracy rate in this game – that is 13% lower than average so far this campaign.


The high tempo and intensity of pressing seemed to have forced teams to go forward with their passes to a higher degree than usual .

According to ORTEC, 51% of Celtic’s passes in the league this season have gone forward, compared to 58% against Rangers. Rangers had a slightly smaller increase, from 55% for season to 58% in this game. 

Rangers had an average of 115 possession per game compared to Celtic’s 105 before their meeting. Rangers’ average time in possession was 15 seconds compared to Celtic’s 20. It was substantially lower for both teams at Ibrox, Rangers’ average time down to 10 seconds with Celtic at 13.

ORTEC divides the possession each team has into four into time categories and it is clear that Celtic simply couldn’t hold on to the ball for a significant amount of time. On average this season they have 49 possessions per game that lasted more than 15 seconds. Against Rangers that was down to 26.

Possession Stats in League Up Until Rangers - Celtic Game

Possession Stats in League Up Until Rangers - Celtic Game

Possession Stats Rangers - Celtic (29th Dec)

Possession Stats Rangers - Celtic (29th Dec)

Rangers actually experienced similar reductions, going from an average of 40 possessions over 15 seconds to 22. But Rangers were able to create those possessions within Celtic’s half to a much larger degree. Their intensity and press forced Celtic on the back foot, with the away team unable to regularly break through the Rangers midfield and move up the field with any real purpose. It was the defining characteristic of the game and the main contributor to Rangers’ win.

In later articles we’ll be doing some player-level analysis of the last round of SPFL Premiership games.  Throughout this month we’ll be publishing work based on data provided by ORTEC. To be able to do this on a permanent basis and to continue to cover Scottish football through advanced statistics we need your help in purchasing this data. Any contribution you could make to our crowdfunding would be greatly appreciated.