IF there were still any doubts over whether Ismaila Soro will start for Celtic against Rangers this weekend after their meeting with Dundee United got underway this afternoon then he swiftly extinguished them.

Naming the Ivorian midfielder in his side once again for the Premiership match at Parkhead strongly suggested that Neil Lennon will give him the nod at Ibrox on Saturday.

Is Lennon really going to recall club captain Scott Brown to face Steven Gerrard’s side after leaving him out of three successive matches?

But Soro, who has been outstanding for the quadruple treble winners since being brought in at the start of this month, surely ensured he will be involved from kick-off in Govan with his subsequent display.

He broke the deadlock with his first Celtic goal – a landmark that he celebrated with a smile that was as wide as the River Clyde – in the 23rd minute when he netted from fully 25 yards out.

Benjamin Siegrist, the United keeper, could have done better and should perhaps have denied him. Still, the long-range effort was well-struck and swerving away from him and ended up hitting the inside side-netting.

Soro then teed up his team mate David Turnbull, another who has impressed since being handed his chance as the result of a dire run of form, for the second five minutes before half-time with a lay-off just outside the visitors’ area.

Turnbull, who had been on target against Ross County and Hamilton last week, fired through a cluster of defenders, beyond Siegrist and in off the inside of the left post to get his name on the scoresheet for the third game in a row. The midfielder was a deserved Man of the Match at the end of the 90 minutes.

Those first-half strikes and a second-half Odsonne Edouard effort ensured that Celtic will go into the second Old Firm match of the 2020/21 campaign – a game that could make or break their chances of doing 10-In-A-Row on the back of a six game winning run.

Having a player with Brown’s experience, intelligence and physicality has helped the Glasgow club to record some important victories over their city rivals away in the past.

It would be understandable if Lennon, as he did in the Scottish Cup final against Hearts at Hampden 10 days ago, put his faith in his skipper. But Soro should make his bow in the world-famous fixture after this showing and due to his streak of form.

Unfortunately for the Scottish champions, who remain 16 points off top spot with three games in hand after this hard-fought win over redoubtable opponents who spurned two excellent second-half chances, it looks as if Christopher Jullien will not be available.

The French centre half badly injured his leg when he collided with a post clearing a Marc McNulty shot off his goal line. He was stretchered off and replaced by Nir Bitton in the 51st minute.

Brown, clearly unperturbed to be watching proceedings from the stands, promptly followed the stricken defender up the tunnel to offer his support.

Soro wasn’t the only interesting name in the Celtic starting line-up – Vasilis Barkas made his first appearance in over three weeks as Conor Hazard dropped to the bench.

The Greek keeper, a £5m acquisition from AEK Athens in the summer, has struggled since arriving in this country and has had to sit on the sidelines as Scott Bain and Hazard have both been preferred. Will he, too, be favoured against Rangers? His inclusion here suggests so.

Barkas had little to do against United, who sat back, soaked up pressure and sought to score on the counter attack, today. The same couldn’t be said of his opposite number Siegrist.

The Swiss did well to deny Leigh Griffiths in the first-half and then Turnbull in the second before being beaten again by Edouard with 14 minutes remaining.

The French centre forward took his tally for the season to 12 after being supplied by Griffiths. He held off Ryan Edwards before chipping over Siegrist. It was the first league goal he had scored from open play since way back on August 2.

Lennon, who threw on Albian Ajeti, Brown, Mohamed Elyounoussi and Tom Rogic when Celtic went 3-0 ahead, was delighted with Celtic’s all-round display ahead of such an important match, but the loss of Jullien will be a concern.

Bitton is a decent professional and did well one again in the time he was on the park. But his preferred position is in midfield. It will be a far tougher task nullifying the threat posed by Kemar Roofe and Alfredo Morelos at Ibrox than it was shackling Nicky Clark, Lawrence Shankland and McNulty.

There was a period of silence in honour of Jim McLean, the legendary Dundee United manager who passed away aged 83 on Saturday, before kick-off.

Micky Mellon’s men produced a gutsy performance of which the Tannadice great would have been pleased and could possibly have taken something if they had been more clinical in the final third at 2-0.

But they never threatened to replicate their last league triumph at Parkhead – the 1-0 victory that McLean orchestrated way back on Boxing Day in 1992.