With news emerging at today’s press conference that Nico Raskin is fit for tomorrow’s trip to Celtic Park, Rangers’ starting 11 feels largely decided.

Unless Michael Beale springs a surprise, most picks feel predictable.

The only question mark in defence, Borna Barisic or Ridvan Yilmaz, is likely decided by the latter’s lack of game time, even if the former has suffered one too many costly afternoons in East Glasgow for most.

A midfield of Raskin, Ryan Jack and Todd Cantwell should sit ahead of that. Sure, there’s merit to the argument that throwing Raskin in if not fully match-fit is a risk, given he last played a game nearly one month ago.

However, if recent Old Firm matches show anything, it’s that greater energy and freshness is required. No area of the pitch has epitomised that quite like the midfield. It’s more of a risk to not throw in the young Belgian than start him, especially given he’s trained all week.

Ahead of those eight, things start to get tricky.

Beale’s opted for a Ryan Kent, Fashion Sakala and Alfredo Morelos trio in both Old Firm fixtures so far and would likely do so again, if not for the form of Malik Tillman.

The American has played a slightly higher role since his return from injury, in part due to the form of Todd Cantwell.

READ MORE: Malik Tillman's new Rangers role in focus

“If they're both training well and in form, then you find a way to play those two players because they're two fantastic players,” Beale said speaking recently about Cantwell and Tillman.

Last weekend’s pass network shows the loanee playing just off of Morelos. Tillman not only scored twice but attempted double his average number of shots, four, while creating the game’s highest number of chances, six. He appeared liberated operating with greater attacking freedom.

An Old Firm game isn't comparable to a home match with Dundee United. But has anyone had a better season overall in blue than Tillman? Does any player in the squad boast a higher technical ceiling? Can he realistically be left out of the starting XI?

Ryan Kent’s unlikely to drop out for two reasons. Firstly, he operates predominantly towards the left side of the pitch. Look at the successful passes he’s received in the league under Beale. Despite the variation, it remains natural for Kent to move left and offer balance.

Tillman’s more active on the right and only one of his 10 league goals have come from the left-hand side.

No Kent risks leaving Rangers unbalanced in the final third. He's a favourite of the manager and his role in this fixture feels secure.

Fashion Sakala arguably has the best case for a start on the basis of past form. He turned the game at Ibrox in January and should’ve won the last Old Firm of 2021/2022, scoring and then hitting the post with the game tied at 1-1.

Much of Beale’s gameplan in the past two meetings with Celtic has been based around the Zambian, with Rangers looking to go over the top of the Celtic press rather than play through it, as shown for Kent’s equaliser in January.

Sakala proved less effective at Hampden, failing to capitalise on a number of moments of potential superiority and missing a key chance at 1-0.

Unpredictability can be a strength and weakness for the attacker. If Rangers don’t dominate the ball and don’t play Sakala, will they lack an out-ball beyond pressure? Although his execution was poor at Hampden, what if he has a January-like game instead? He has been Rangers' best attacking threat away from home under Beale after all.

READ MORE: Every word of Michael Beale's pre-Old Firm press conference 

Alfredo Morelos’ case for inclusion is weaker on the basis of form yet strengthened by rationale. His Ibrox future has never appeared more uncertain and these fixtures haven’t tended to see the best of him. However, is Beale realistically going to play without a centre-forward?

In mitigation, the Colombian scored in this fixture at Hampden and when runners started to pop up around him, grew into the game. He is also an important player at attacking set pieces. 

More importantly, it was Morelos’ duel winning that helped Rangers to gain a foothold in the 2-2 draw at Ibrox, winning just one of nine before the break and five of eight after. Without his ability to combat and hold the ball, do the visitors lose any avenue up the pitch?

Beale's press conference today did offer some clues about the 11 that will be selected tomorrow. 

Firstly, he emphasised the need for Rangers to “take the ball and stay with it, getting it to our attackers on the ball. Whether that’s Todd, Malik or Ryan”.

Secondly, he spoke about the importance of “getting closer” to Celtic out of possession.

“We need to get closer out of possession and get up and get closer to people and play with more intensity and play a derby for what it is. We haven't got time for people to wait. We need to have good energy and good application on the pitch. All of that gives you the foundations to play football."

Thirdly, he admitted that this side have started far too slowly in the two previous Old Firms. 

“It’s important we start well. We were too slow in both games, that’s not the Rangers in this fixture that I remember but it’s the one I’ve inherited.”

And finally, he admitted: “You try to go into the game with familiarity and clarity in terms of the roles that [players] have, you don’t try to come up with anything new. You try to keep the players stable, focused on what we are and then it’s up to them to execute it.”

Taking Beale at his word the manager wants more control of the ball and envisions his team getting closer to Celtic off it. He appears to want his side to impose themselves more on the fixture than they have done of late.

The talk of familiarity and clarity appears to deny the probability of a false No.9. Seemingly, Beale wants to go toe-to-toe in possession. 

Whatever decision is made up top, Beale needs his team to execute their plan and demonstrate progress. Rangers may approach this game in strong league form but Old Firm matches are the true judgement days in Glasgow.