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Old Firm derby delayed in hope fans can see Celtic host Rangers as Scottish Premiership fixtures unveiled



Firm foes: Neil Lennon hopes his next meeting with Steven Gerrard isn’t behind closed doors

Firm foes: Neil Lennon hopes his next meeting with Steven Gerrard isn’t behind closed doors

Firm foes: Neil Lennon hopes his next meeting with Steven Gerrard isn’t behind closed doors

Celtic and Rangers will go head-to-head for the first time next season at a later date than normal in the hope some supporters will be able to watch the derby clash from the stands at Celtic Park.

The Scottish Premiership fixtures were announced on Monday morning, with the two Glasgow giants poised to meet on Saturday, October 17, pending a change for television purposes.

Since Rangers' return to the top tier in 2016, the teams have met in September although league chiefs have taken the decision to delay next season's first meeting in the hope restrictions on social distancing may have been relaxed enough to allow some supporters through the turnstiles.

It's a move that Celtic boss Neil Lennon had called for last month.

"Everyone associated with the game would want that and the clubs would want that. I'm sure the TV companies would want that as well," he said of a derby delay.

"If that (behind closed doors) is the way it has to be, that's the way it has to be. But I do think the authorities will look at it and try to push it back. It'll give us more of a chance of getting the punters back."

There will be extra poignancy on January 2 when Glasgow's big two meet for their traditional New Year showdown in Govan as the clubs mark the 50th anniversary of the Ibrox disaster, while the third derby is back at Parkhead over the weekend of March 20.

Over the course of the campaign, champions Celtic will be bidding for a record-breaking 10th title in succession.

Neil Lennon's side will kick off what could be an historic season at home to Hamilton on Sunday, August 2.

Steven Gerrard's Rangers will be determined to halt their bitter rivals' reign of domination as they start their season with a trip to face Aberdeen at Pittodrie the day before.

The second round of fixtures sees Celtic travel to Kilmarnock on Sunday, August 9, while the day before Rangers' first home match of the new campaign will be against Saints.

Motherwell, who have held on to boss Stephen Robinson after he missed out on the Northern Ireland job, will be looking to repeat their third-place finish. They welcome Ross County in their opening game of the season live on Sky Sports on Monday, August 3.

The league's winter break has been scrapped as league chiefs aim to make room for cup ties left over from last season, with games scheduled to be played across the four weekends in January.

Dundee United - who are reportedly set to announce Tranmere boss Micky Mellon as their new manager - will make their return to the top-flight after a four-year absence, so long as the legal challenge launched by relegated Hearts and Partick Thistle does not scupper their plans.

Tayside rivals St Johnstone are scheduled to be the Terrors' first opponents at Tannadice on August 1, with Callum Davidson taking over from the departed Tommy Wright for the first time.

The opening day also sees Hibernian welcome Kilmarnock to Easter Road and St Mirren facing off against Livingston in Paisley, while Motherwell's trip north to face Ross County in Dingwall has been pushed back until Monday, August 3.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: "The pre-season fixture announcement is always a key event in every football supporter's calendar, but it feels particularly important this year, given the challenges caused by Covid-19.

"Football plays a unique role in the social, cultural and economic life of Scotland, and I'm sure the millions of passionate fans who follow our game will welcome this significant step towards the resumption of matches.

"The unveiling of the 2020/21 Premiership fixtures will allow clubs and fans to start planning their schedules, but it must be stressed that they remain subject to approval from the Scottish Government for the restart of football in Scotland.

"That said, the timetable for a return to competitive action is now far clearer and clubs, players and supporters can begin to look forward to the opening day's fixtures."

Belfast Telegraph