THE incomings and outgoings at Ibrox and Parkhead in the next couple of days will have far more of a bearing on the outcome of the Scottish title race than the result of the first Old Firm match of the season.

If Celtic and Rangers lose key personnel before the summer transfer window closes tomorrow night it will have a detrimental impact on their chances of lifting the cinch Premiership trophy.

And both of the Glasgow giants must, in the wake of a pandemic which has taken a devastating toll on their finances, sell in order to balance their books. Who will go? Who will remain? Anything can happen.

Borna Barisic certainly appeared to bid a tearful farewell to the club he has spent the last three years at at the end of the 90 minutes yesterday; the Rangers left back was visibly upset, touched the turf and hugged staff.  

Similarly, if they are both able to hold on to their prized assets and strengthen with another quality acquisition or two it might increase their prospects of winning the league.

The narrow 1-0 victory that Steven Gerrard’s men recorded in their manager’s absence – he was one of those who was forced to stay away as a result of a Covid-19 outbreak in his squad last week – was celebrated joyously by the 49,402-strong crowd in attendance.

But will it make a huge amount of difference come May? Rangers are only three points clear of their city rivals in the table and there are 34 matches remaining. An awful lot can happen in the coming nine months. The next 48 hours will be very interesting.

Yet, the fact the defending champions prevailed, and stretched their unbeaten run in the world famous fixture to seven games in the process, despite losing several important players will lift them no end after an erratic start to the new term.

Yes, Rangers had a distinct advantage because there were, due to their season ticket sales and the presence of a “red zone” that must remain unoccupied to satisfy government coronavirus protocols, no away fans inside their Govan ground. But they were far from full-strength.

Gerrard had to pick Robby McCrorie in goals after both Allan McGregor and Jon McLaughlin were ruled out. Elsewhere, centre half Leon Balogun was required to slot in at right back in the absence of both Nathan Patterson and James Tavernier.

McCrorie, who only made his first team debut in the Europa League play-off match against Alashkert in Armenia last Thursday, did well to race off his line and deny Odsonne Edouard a shot in the first-half and then block a goal-bound Kyogo Furuhashi effort with his outstretched right leg late in the second.

However, the hosts were weaker without McGregor, a big game player who thrives on the atmosphere of the Glasgow derby, in the starting line-up.  

Balogun was immense despite playing out of position. He dealt well with the considerable threat posed down his flank by Furuhashi and Josip Juranovic, the right back who made his debut for the visitors at left back, throughout. He made numerous important tackles and was a deserved recipient of the Man of the Match champagne after the final whistle.

But the Nigerian offered next to nothing going forward. Rangers encourage their full-backs to get upfield and initiate and complement their attacks. Both Tavernier and Patterson excel on the overlap and create and convert chances. The home team failed to pose the same threat without them.

They can improve on their display when Calvin Bassey, McGregor, Patterson, Tavernier and Scott Wright return following the international break and they have Gerrard back in the dugout.

All that said, Celtic, whose manager Ange Postecoglou was sampling the dubious delights of the Old Firm for the first time, should not be overly despondent in defeat. They had arguably the better scoring opportunities during the course of an encounter that was high on endeavour but low on quality. 

If Odsonne Edouard, who has been attracting increased interest from clubs down south and abroad in recent days and seems certain to depart, had slotted beyond McCrorie from just a few yards after being supplied by Furuhashi in the 25th minute it could very easily have been a different story. 

Postecoglou praised the quality of both the Borna Barisic corner and the Filip Helander header – the Swedish centre half rose above his countryman Carl Starfelt and nodded beyond Joe Hart in the 67th minute – that led to the Rangers goal. But conceding at a set piece once again must be a concern for him. 

So, too, will their away form. Celtic have played Hearts, Jablonec, AZ Alkmaar and Rangers on the road in recent weeks and lost three of them. It is all very well turning on the style against inferior teams in front of tens of thousands of your fans at home. They must show they can grind out results in hostile environments if they are to enjoy success. 

The Greek-Australian, who was without James Forrest, James McCarthy and Greg Taylor, will unquestionably learn from the experience. But he made a shrewd double substitution - he put on Ismaila Soro and Tom Rogic for Edouard and David Turnbull respectively - and rejigged his side sensibly after Celtic had fallen behind. The changes made a difference.

The Parkhead club should have levelled late on after Rogic found Furuhashi, far more effective through the middle than he had been wide on the left, in the penalty box. Ryan Christie was in space inside him and would have had the simplest of tasks to stroke into an empty net if he had received the ball. But his team mate shot and was denied.