Old Firm Scottish Cup Semi-Final: Yardstick Or Redemption?


Rangers and Celtic will meet in April and compete in a Scottish Cup semi-final clash.

The tie sees the leaders of the Scottish Championship take on the leaders and current champions of the Scottish Premiership.

Now usually the team leading the top flight would be huge favourites to knock out lower league opposition. And indeed Celtic will be the favourites to get the victory at Hampden Park next month.

But the gap between the two sides doesn’t seem to be that huge at the moment.

Last term the two faced each other in the same round of the League Cup with the Hoops easily defeating their Glasgow rivals. Actually after years of waiting for a game between the two it turned out to be a huge anti-climax with Rangers no where near good enough to trouble Celtic.

They were slow and one dimensional. Celtic simply turned up and that was enough to gain the win.

A year on and things have changed for both sides and now they may actually provide Scottish football with an entertaining match. Ok that might be asking too much, maybe we could get a close encounter between the two.

See Rangers are now a functioning unit. Manager Mark Warburton has instilled confidence and the team are now used to winning most games. They are comfortable with possession and have a new fluidity about them.

In the last round they proved they could out muscle and out think Premiership opponents as they defeated Dundee by a 4-0 scoreline. In that game they showed that their defence had come along way since the start of the campaign when they looked nervy and a bit shaky.

The Gers team are now twelve points ahead in the Championship with a game in hand. Full of confidence and ready to test themselves in their biggest game of the season against the side that they always compare themselves with.

Over in Glasgow’s east end and things should be brighter than they actually are. As they lead the league title race.

But alas many of Celtic’s fans aren’t convinced that they have the right manager in charge at club in Ronny Deila. A large section of the Hoops faithful are also debating whether or not the side have gone backwards in the last twelve months.

They also remain unsure that the current board have it in them to change things for the better. All that has caused major tension within the club between the faithful and the hierarchy.

The Scottish champions once again failed in their quest for Champions League football and they also disappointed in the Europa League this term.

Celtic were soundly beaten the last time they took to the Hampden field when Ross County beat them 3-1 in the League Cup in January.

In the Premiership they’ve dropped points at various times and they now sit just a point ahead of Aberdeen (albeit Celtic have a game in hand). Drop any more points and things could get really nervy at Parkhead.

I’d imagine that losing to Rangers in the Scottish Cup could be the last straw for the Celtic support and they’d demand that Deila left the club in the summer!

It’s all part of the Old Firm gold fish bowl that these two managers still need to get used to. It will probably reach boiling point next season if Rangers do indeed secure promotion.

For Rangers and Warburton this game is the perfect opportunity to see just how far they’ve come since August and it should also show just how far they still need to go for next season.

Mark Warburton has suggested this himself:

“It’s a fantastic draw and it is a challenge to test ourselves.”

This Gers team are not the finished article. New recruits will need to be brought in during the summer if they are to compete in the Premiership. Even though things have improved in terms of the central defence, the acid test will come against Celtic.

It’s true the Hoops haven’t been firing on all cylinders this year but they do have a very dangerous striker in Leigh Griffiths. The Scottish international striker has clocked up thirty-four goals in forty appearances so far this campaign. So he’ll fancy himself to breach the Bears defence and grab a goal or two.

As well as a potent attack, Celtic also have the meanest defence in the top flight. Yes they struggle at set-pieces and lack a true leader at the back but don’t fall into the trap of believing they are a spent force!

For Deila and his squad this match could represent a bit of redemption and buy the management team a bit more time.

It’s funny but a whole season may be forgiven if Celtic can go out and put on a scintillating performance at Hampden, knock out Rangers and then Celtic go on and win the double.

But it will need to be convincing or dramatic. To win by a forty-fourth minute penalty in an unconvincing display won’t cut it.

So there you have it. Once again we have a crucial Old Firm game and one that will matter to both sets of fans. Hopefully both sides can turn up this time and show the country what they are made of!


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