Beating either Rangers or Celtic in the league is the final frontier for Callum Davidson as St Johnstone manager.
There have been 16 attempts thus far and one draw against both is as good as it’s got.
Courier Sport takes a look at three of the big talking points ahead of Sunday’s McDiarmid Park lunchtime clash.
The Celtic game template
Break those 16 Old Firm matches down to 32 halves of football and the last one – the second 45 against Celtic a few weeks ago – could well have been the best of the lot from a Perth perspective.
It should also be the template for how Saints attempt to claim that landmark victory.
So what did they do well that changed the course of the game and almost got them a draw against last season’s champions and this season’s favourites?
The short answer, provided by Opta, is pretty much everything.
Saints made more tackles (eight to three) and won more tackles (five to three) than Celtic.
They broke up play with nearly twice as many fouls (nine to five).
Crucially, Saints got crosses into the box in good numbers (eight).
They also had a high percentage of successful dribbles (57.1%), nearly matched Celtic in duels won and stole the ball back in the opposition final third more than the Hoops (four to three).
It was in attack that Davidson’s men posted the most eye-catching numbers, though.
They equalled Celtic’s shots (six to six), shots on target (three to three) and shots inside the box (four to four).
It was 4-2 for Saints in terms of Opta’s ‘big chances’ category and 35-27 for final third entries.
The moral of the story?
If Saints are level or a goal behind at half-time, they’ve got the structural solidity and attacking capability to give it a give it a real second half go against a Rangers team that isn’t as slick on the counter as Celtic.
Drey Wright return to form needed
Saints will require a lot of eight out of 10 performances to beat Rangers and Drey Wright will have to be one of them.
It didn’t end well against Celtic when he injured his ankle and turned his back in the build-up to Celtic’s late winner but he was at the heart of a lot of the good Opta statistics highlighted above.
Wright led the way in eight categories, which included having more touches, winning more tackles and duels and attempting more dribbles than any other Saints player.
His form has dropped off since then, however.
He only got on the ball 34 times in over 90 minutes against Kilmarnock last weekend, for example.
With a right-footed, defensive-minded player (James Brown) likely to start at wing-back on the other side of the pitch a big responsibility rests on Wright’s shoulders to be the over-lapping and under-lapping threat that has been notable in a few of the goals Rangers have conceded this season.
A strong showing from the former Hibs man is a non-negotiable if Saints are to draw or win, I would suggest.
Expecting a team with the quality of player that Giovanni van Bronckhorst can call upon – even with injuries biting deep – to underwhelm is a dangerous trap to fall into.
Even more so if you’re going to indulge in exaggerated ‘there for the taking’ talk.
Rangers have won all the Premiership games that have followed Champions League defeats.
Yet it is an inescapable fact that this is not a club, nor a team in a happy place.
How could it be now that the crown of being the worst side in Champions League history is theirs to wear?
The indignity of being the worst team in UCL history is not par for the course just because Rangers have less money.
Rangers' wage costs last year were €39m vs €95m at Ajax.
Smaller differential than Prem teams face vs OF but Rangers are challenged.https://t.co/TbXaC6s9Vx
— Jordan Campbell (@JordanC1107) November 2, 2022
Some supporters already want van Bronckhorst out and losing in Perth would see that number swell, albeit with ire still directed more at the boardroom than the dugout.
With three games in the week, even defeat on Sunday isn’t going to see the St Johnstone manager curse of head coaches losing their job after facing the Perth men rise from 10 to 11.
But speculation has started about a shortlist of contenders to replace GVB being drawn up and the opportunity for a reset afforded by a World Cup break doesn’t help his cause.
If Rangers are feeling sorry for themselves, the manager has lost his mojo and the players have lost some faith in him – or any one of those three – Saints need to seize their opportunity.
The hosts have two bigger games to follow in terms of their league placing. This is a free swing.