Sunday-Hampden Park. Rangers will take to the field hoping to secure a place in the Scottish Cup final, facing off against Old Firm rivals Celtic. Revenge is surely on the minds of the Rangers players as they look to avenge the result and disappointment in the previous encounter.
I think it’s fair to say this competition offers the light blues the best opportunity at silverware this season, with the league form far too inconsistent to mount a serious or prolonged title challenge.
Here are the 5 storylines to follow vs Celtic.
1-STOP BROWN DICTATING THE GAME
This pains me to say, let alone write but in most recent old firm games, the ones at Ibrox this season spring to mind, we have simply stood off and allowed the Celtic captain to dictate the play and tempo from centre midfield. Enough is enough.
It is exactly these types of big games Dorrans was brought to the club for, he must get tighter and not allow Brown the freedom he has been granted.
In the last encounter at Ibrox Celtic went down to ten men, and he still bossed the middle of the park, just dropping deeper in order to pick the ball up and sweep up any attacks we were trying to play through that area.
The time is now for somebody in this team to stand up and be counted, it is inconceivable to me that another game will pass with Brown proving the difference.
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Go out there and shut up the mouthpiece.
2-WILL MORELOS SCORE ?
Rangers players reputations are made on the back of performing in big games, now I am not for one minute suggesting that Alfies all around play has not been of an acceptable standard in these matches, far from it. His work outside and in and around the box has been exemplary. The display at Parkhead earlier in the season was one of the best I’ve seen by a lone forward, it’s just he is in danger if becoming defined by the chances he misses.
In the previous two old firm matches he has passed up what can only be described as guilt edge chances, his finishing is what stands between him becoming a top class striker. He is still very young and raw as a talent, very much a rough diamond, that we must coach and nurture in order to extract the most from.
Personally, I am backing the wee man to get off the mark and put an end to all the questions set against him, he offers so much more than just goals, defenders are terrified of playing too tight, and he drags them into areas they are simply not comfortable in.
He could face a role coming off the bench, either way he will need to make sure he takes his chances when the come around this time.
3-WHERE WILL McCRORIE PLAY ?
This is possibly the biggest selection dilemma facing Murty, we could do with Ross McCorie on midfield and defence.
I suspect he will play in centre midfield, offering protection and shielding the centre backs. Celtic have a reputation of causing us problems with late, or runs that are either not picked up, tracked or closed down quick enough.
His energy, stamina and ability to read the play is vital for us. This is battle I know he can not just handle but excel in. His return to fitness is key and a massive boast to us.
Murty just has to decide if he will keep the youngster at centre half, or push him forward in a more advanced and disciplined role.
4-WINDASS OR MILLER, OR BOTH ?
This is a choice that may well be taken out the managers hands by the lack of fitness of Josh Windass. My suspicions are that Kenny Miller will once again start an Old Firm game, his experience and ability to shine on the big stage is of up most importance.
Miller must not become a headless chicken, at his advanced age and a player of his experience he should be able to read the game far better, knowing when and when not to make runs or what areas of the park to stay clear from. His energy will be key, he is clearly a player who all the players at the club respect and look up to.
Miller clearly has the trust of the manager, despite his form being sporadic at times this season Murty has stuck by him, when many felt his time at the club was over. His inclusion on Saturday might just have been with Sunday’s game in mind.
Hopefully Kenny has one more big game still in the tank.
Miller could well be pushed out in a wider area, offering up some defensive stability and cover, allowing the more flamboyant and creative Windass to take up a central role. If Windass plays he must up his work rate in key areas of the park, especially when we lose possession.
5-CAN THE PLAYERS HANDLE THE PRESSURE ?
This is a group of players who have simply failed to deliver in these types of games. It is something that must be put right. After all this is Rangers Football Club, second best is just not good enough.
Sunday really does give the squad a fantastic chance to win over the fans, answer the questions put against them and at the same time be in with a fantastic chance of capturing silverware, with it a place in the history of this great club.
The players must seize the opportunity that is presented to them, thrive on the pressure and only then will they be truly classed as a Ranger.
As Mike Tyson said, everybody has a plan until you hit them in the mouth. Lets hit them.
Rangers 2 Celtic 1
What’s your prediction ?, are you confident. Let me know as always.