Tonight, Rangers travel to Easter Road to take on Hibernian, a game that’s always one of the more anticipated on the calendar. With a number of injuries to contend with, it’s a game which is both difficult and vital in equal measure.
At the start of the season, I predicted that Hibs would be a strong top 6 side. So far, that looks likely, as they currently sit 3 points behind ourselves and Aberdeen. They’ve now drawn twice with Celtic in the league, and will feel they deserve to be even higher up the table.
HIBS LAST 5 LEAGUE RESULTS
Dundee (home), 2-1 win
St Johnstone (home), 2-1 defeat
Hamilton (away), 1-1 draw
Partick Thistle (away), 1-0 win
Celtic (home), 2-2 draw
Much like Rangers fans lament the defeats to Hamilton and Dundee, Hibs will look at a couple of recent matches and feel they should have done more. They carried some luck in their game at the weekend, but almost won the match in the last minute. They’ll have taken some real confidence from how they finished the game. What will be interesting is just how they decide to line up. In the match at Ibrox, they went with a 3-5-2, and the forward 2 really stretched our defence even before the red card. They are comfortable in either a back 3 or 4, and will see us as a team they can get a win against.
Hibs have a good squad, and some very dangerous players. John McGinn is an obvious standout, but players like Barker, Stokes and Simon Murray will hurt teams when they play well. It’s very likely that they’ll look to use pace on the break, and keep the tempo high. With Rangers missing the experience and talent of Wallace, Dorrans and Jack, they could rightly feel they are favourites on the night. They’ll have good options up front to pick from, with players in form. Brandon Barker limped off the park on Sunday late in the game. With the pacey on-loan winger being a real danger, Rangers will hope he isn’t at his best.
The main area Rangers will be looking to hurt is the full back positions. Whittaker is potentially injured, and Stevenson is likely to start, who like most fullbacks is more comfortable going forward. Darren McGregor may be played at right back, a position he’s not the most comfortable in.
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I suspect that the team who started the second half against Ross County on Sunday will start this match. As such, Windass and Candeias will be wide, and will hope we can win the midfield battle so they can get forward.
PREDICTED LINE UP
As well as Pena played against Aberdeen, I think he’ll step out in this one. He could be a strong option from the bench when the game is more open. Miller will be vital in terms of leadership and composure, both of which will be required. There’s a chance we could stick with the 4-4-2 shape of the last few games, but it’s very dependent upon Jack and Pena. With one suspended and one unlikely to start, we may need to change things. As much as Hibs will feel they can win this game, I also believe they’re unlikely to be quite as attacking as Aberdeen were. That will mean less space in behind their defence, so it’s better for Windass to start from a deeper area. Morelos will look to draw fouls from Ambrose with his hold-up play, and the battle between McGinn and McCrorie in midfield will be key.
This is a chance to open up a little gap on Hibs, who not so long ago were ahead of us in the league. It’s not a game we can claim to be strong favourites in, but if we can find the level we did against Aberdeen we can certainly win. If nothing else, the team looks more up for a fight of late, and that will be needed. In terms of a prediction, I believe Rangers will win 2-1. I don’t think we can claim to be favourites, but Murty has done well in this sort of scenario so far. Any sort of positive result given everything would be a great outcome.
What’s your expectations for tonight? Tweet us @rangersnewsuk with your thoughts!