On Sunday Rangers will play one of their most important games of the season. We travel to Hampden park for the Scottish Cup Semi-Final against our old rivals Celtic. With the league virtually out of our reach, the season could only really be called a success if we could lift the Scottish cup.
Just a few weeks ago we were so full of confidence that we could beat Celtic in the league, and were actually well on top of them when they went down to ten men. That was it, we thought; with a man advantage we would charge on to victory and put us right back in the race to win the league title. Nothing could have been further from the truth as Rangers seemed to lose all shape and it was Celtic who got the winning goal. Instead of fighting for the League title, a loss against Kilmarnock followed by a draw at Motherwell has actually put us in a three horse battle for the second spot with Hibernian and Aberdeen, going in to the last five game split.
On Sunday the players get the chance to redeem themselves. For some, this will be their last chance to win some silverware, so hopefully they will bring their 'A' game to the table. While Celtic are the bookies red hot favourites, this is a one game effort and, as we all know, in an Old Firm derby form goes out of the window. It is who stands up to be counted on the day. The last time we met them in the cup at Hampden we went on to beat them in a penalty shoot-out. Of course the grass that day was of a masonic cultivation as Rogic' s standing leg pushed up the turf and he ballooned the ball over the bar to put Rangers into the final. (The less said about the final the better.)
Celtic will most likely start with a 4-2-3-1 with Scott Brown and Ntcham playing deeper and Forest, Rogic and Armstrong\McGregor giving them the forward push. Dembele will be the lone striker. They call Scott Brown the Lego eater but, to be honest, given his intelligence I don't think he got past the Duplo stage. He can however command the midfield; giving him the space and time to run the game will be suicide as we saw at Ibrox three weeks ago when they went down to ten men.
So how can we set up to combat the vital midfield area? One thing is certain we cannot face it with a two man midfield of Docherty and Dorrans. We need that third man in there and in a perfect world I would love to see young McCrorie in the midfield. Unfortunately when you look at our defence, can we afford to leave Alves and Martin as our main Centre-backs? That would certainly leave us short of pace and the inclination to lie deeper which would virtually scuttle the early pressing game.
Alves has probably been the biggest disappointment to Rangers supporters who were expecting a world beater -- In all honesty he looks more like a carpet beater. Yes, he wins everything in the air but I still can't remember him making a decent tackle. We all know Celtic will not be punting high balls up to Dembele to combat Alves in the air.
With David Bates being injured the only other name on offer is Fabio Cardoso. He has had next to no game time, with his last game being when he came on for Bates against Celtic and played a big part in poor defending for the third goal. With McCrorie sitting in front of the defence it would mean that a lot of balls would be mopped up in the midfield though. Murty certainly has a difficult decision to make.
We could of course go for a far more defensive plan and sit deeper by putting the fit again Windass up as a loan striker to use his pace on the break. The Celtic defenders would certainly love not getting beaten up by Morelos, but they are also not the quickest defenders out there and the speed of Windass may upset them more than the battering of Morelos; that also offers up the chance to play a five man midfield keeping our two wide players. We would be giving away territory but that would give us far more room to break into. It would also give far more room for Tavernier and John to break.
I doubt that Murty will change that much and I fully expect Kenny Miller to be playing around Morelos. I really hope he shores up the midfield but I am afraid it will be more of the same. He may put in Halliday or Holt for Docherty but that is about the only change I see on the cards.
I think his team will be:
Tavernier - Martin - McCrorie - John
Candeias - Docherty - Dorrans - Murphy
As I said, the favourites do not always win and the 1966 Scottish Cup is one of the greatest examples of that. 0-0 in the first game, a 98,000 expectant crowd saw a solitary goal from Kai Johansen in the replay to secure the Cup for Rangers. Let's hope the players stand up and give themselves their best shot at redemption.
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