THE absence of away supporters at games between Celtic and Rangers is a relatively new development in the history of the Old Firm fixture.

But Cyriel Dessers, who is set to lead the line for Philippe Clement’s team in their cinch Premiership encounter with Brendan Rodgers’ side at Parkhead this afternoon, is quite accustomed to not having any spectators cheering him on inside a stadium.

The Nigerian striker spent a season on loan at Feyenoord in the Netherlands during the 2021/22 campaign and played in an Eredivisie match against Ajax at the Johan Cruyff Arena during that time.

Travelling supporters have been banned from attending “De Klassieker” for years due to the crowd trouble which regularly flares between the ultra elements of the Dutch giants’ fanbases.  

So he does not anticipate having any difficulties performing to the very best of his abilities in front of a hostile 60,000-strong crowd in the East End of Glasgow this afternoon.

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“It is the same situation over there,” said Dessers, who is the only specialist striker who Clement currently has at his disposal due to Danilo and Kemar Roofe both being sidelined.

“It’s a weird feeling, but, as a professional footballer you know how to handle the situation. You know the emotions around the game and you have to handle this with good energy.

“We lost in the last minute against Ajax, but we actually played one of our best games of the season and were really unlucky. I played one of my best games of the season that day.

The Herald: “I think we will be able to block it out. A game with these circumstances and this build up during the week? You will be fired up as a player. Of course, the fans can give you an extra boost, but we will be ready without our fans. We know how it is and what we can expect, so we will be ready.

“This is our job and we cannot have excuses. We need to do our job and focus on that and on what we can control that’s on the pitch. We just have to do what we are good at.”

He added: “Hopefully then we can make them nervous. I think we will. But we are not focused on these things. We are focused on ourselves. We know it won’t be an easy game.

“It will be a tough atmosphere, but we are ready for it and we’ll take energy out of it as well. Hopefully there will be silence because we have scored a goal. Hopefully we can have that silence a couple of times.”

Dessers fared far better against PSV Eindhoven than he did against Ajax during his stint with Feyenoord – he scored in a 4-0 win at the Philips Stadion shortly after he arrived in Rotterdam and then netted a double in a 2-2 draw at De Kuip.  

The £4.5m summer signing, who has been on target four times in his last seven appearances, is optimistic he will be able to draw on his experiences of those sort of big games against Celtic today and help Rangers triumph.

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“I don’t think it’s like the Old Firm game, but when you talk about games on the highest level domestically, these Feyenoord games against PSV and Ajax are comparable football-wise,” he said.

“These games are something else and I hope I can find the form tomorrow that I had in those games against PSV and Ajax. Hopefully we can win this game as well.”

Much depends on how Dessers performs this afternoon given the lack of options which Clement has available to him in the final third – but the 29-year-old feels that every player in a light blue jersey is capable of beating Celtic keeper Joe Hart.

The Herald: “Of course I am not happy with the other guys being out because I see all the work they put in every day to be fit and to stay fit,” he said. “So I’m really gutted for them.

“But the fact is that at this point I am the only striker, which means I need to treat my body even better to stay fit because that’s important for the team. Whenever the team and the manager needs me, I will be there and try to focus on staying fit, treating my body well and hopefully score goals.

“I think in the last few weeks that has worked out pretty well, so let’s hope we can do it for these last two games before the winter break.”

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Dessers added: “But it’s not just one player that the opponent needs to keep out of the game. We have several weapons and we need to use them, especially in the big games like this one.

“Betis (the Europa League game against Real Betis in Spain earlier this month) was a great example of that. I scored a goal, Abdallah (Sima) scored a goal and Kemar scored a goal. That’s one of our strengths and I hope tomorrow we can reproduce this and goals can come from everywhere.”

Dessers, who endured a difficult start to his Rangers career after joining from Cremonese in Italy, endeared himself to Rangers supporters greatly when he scored an excellent goal in the 3-2 win over Betis.

But he will be quite happy if the ball goes in off his backside against Celtic - who have played two games more than Rangers and are just five points clear at the top of the league table – this afternoon. 

“As a striker, I’m pretty lucky to have scored about 120 goals in my career, so I know the feeling when you bundle one in,” he said. “I really don’t care if it’s a really beautiful goal or a really ugly one. Especially tomorrow, I won’t care.

“The whole team just wants the ball to go into the net. I don’t care who it is or in what way it is. We just need to put the ball in the net. That’s it.”

Dessers has had friends over in Glasgow visiting him during the festive period and he is sorry he will not be able to get them tickets for the Old Firm game.

“They just texted me asking if I had a good recommendation for a pub that they go to watch it,” he said. “Unfortunately, the pub is not a place I go to a lot, so I can’t help them!”

If Cyriel Dessers scores the winner for Rangers against Celtic at Parkhead this afternoon he will not have to pay for a pint in Govan again.

The Herald: