Monday 19 February 2018

Old Firm set to collide in Scottish Cup semi-final

Celtic's Gary Mackay-Steven scores his sides second goal during the William Hill Scottish Cup, Quarter Final match at Celtic Park
Celtic's Gary Mackay-Steven scores his sides second goal during the William Hill Scottish Cup, Quarter Final match at Celtic Park

Rangers and Celtic will meet again in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-finals.

The Glasgow clubs were drawn together in Sunday's draw and will face up at Hampden on the weekend of April 16-17.

The pair met in last season's League Cup semi-finals when Celtic comfortably won 2-0 but Ladbrokes Championship leaders Rangers will go into the latest meeting with far more confidence following their 4-0 quarter-final victory over Dundee. Celtic beat Morton 3-0 on Sunday.

Dundee United, who beat Ross County 3-2, will face the winners of the replay between Inverness and Hibernian in the other semi-final.

Former Celtic striker Frank McGarvey, who helped make the draw, believes Rangers have a much better chance against his old club than they did last season, but still makes the Parkhead side favourites.

McGarvey, who played for the Hoops between 1980 and 1985, leaving the club after scoring the winner against Dundee United in the final that season, believes Hampden Park could be sold out "five times over, no problem, this is a big, big game", but expects Ronny Deila's men to come through.

He told Press Association Sport: "It is a fantastic draw, maybe this could spark Scottish football into life again.

"Rangers have a better chance this time, they had no chance last year.

"Rangers beat a Premiership side, Dundee comfortably 4-0 at Ibrox after Celtic drew 0-0 against them in the league so there won't be a lot between them. Celtic will have to be at their best to beat them.

"I think Celtic will win the game, they will be looking forward to it, it will put an edge on them which will help them in the league as well, they will need to sharpen up but they are no certainties.

"I put Celtic favourites because they have the best centre forward in the country in Leigh Griffiths, he makes all the difference.

"Also, Celtic have a big squad whereas Rangers can't afford any injuries to their important players, that's why I am making Celtic favourites."

Rangers striker Kenny Miller insists they will not fear the Scottish champions.

And Miller believes that the players' faith in Mark Warburton's methods will give them the confidence to cause an upset.

The former Celtic player told Rangers' official website: "There was every chance we were going to get them at some point, and as we said after the game yesterday, we don't fear anyone.

"Whoever we drew was just going to be standing in the way of our goal which is to win the Scottish Cup, and I've said all along, we have to get past Celtic if we want to win it.

"It will be a tough game as all the games are, but I am fully confident if we go about the job in the way we know we can that we can get the right result.

"The manager has got us playing and has got us believing in the way we are playing, and that will never change no matter who we play.

"If we can perform and do the right things that we do day in and day out, it can all come to fruition as it did yesterday.

"I thought to a man the lads were excellent both offensively and defensively in terms of scoring goals, creating chances and keeping the back door shut.

"It was a pretty whole performance from start to finish, and if we can go and emulate that and do the right things which we talk about all the time, then there is no reason why we can't go and get the right result."

Miller, who is in his third spell at Rangers, is a veteran of Old Firm derbies but is one of only three members of Warburton's current squad who started last season's Hampden clash.

But the 36-year-old is confident his team-mates will be fully aware of the demands of the fixture.

"There is only so much you can pass on to people, and I have said time and again that we have a really good group," he said.

"They know what playing for Rangers is all about now - the penny has dropped for them really, really quickly, and you can see it in the way we play, when we score a goal and when the lads talk about it after a game.

"This is 'the' big game obviously when you are playing your local rivals, so the lads will be well prepared for it, there is no doubt about that.

"They know what the game is about, and we will be prepared, and we will be ready."

Former Celtic midfielder Murdo MacLeod feels the upcoming fixture will be much more like an Old Firm clash than last season's contest.

Celtic were two ahead at half-time and missed several decent chances, and although Rangers improved after the break, they did not look like scoring.

MacLeod told Sky Sports News: "Every year you're always looking for an Old Firm game - not just in Scotland, down south in England they've got a lot of people watching it down there and all around the world, everybody's wanting to see an Old Firm game.

"I think the last time was a bit of a mismatch but this time it'll be the real McCoy back again.

"I'm really looking forward to it. Last year when Celtic played Rangers, Rangers weren't ready for that game and Celtic were on top of their game and top of the table and Rangers were struggling a wee bit.

"But I think after the weekend - Rangers played really well against Dundee - I think a lot of Rangers fans think they can go and match anything that Celtic can offer right now.

"I think Rangers have been building over the last two or three seasons and now they have a settled side, a young side. They move the ball quickly but I think they'll not be too far away from Celtic this time.

"I think Celtic have maybe lowered their standards slightly over the past four or five weeks and they've dropped a lot of points.

"Now Rangers will be looking to this game as a great opportunity to go and win the Scottish Cup."

Warburton claims there will be no mention of the fixture inside his squad until the preceding week, which comes after his team face Peterhead in the Petrofac Training Cup at Hampden on April 10.

The Rangers boss, whose side are 12 points clear in the Championship, told his club's official website: "I understand fully that it is a good draw for the fans, and all the teams left in the competition were good, high-calibre teams, and whoever we drew was going to be a tough challenge.

"Right now though, our only focus is Friday night and Morton, and that won't change.

"Yes, it's a game to look forward to, absolutely, but our priority has to be the league campaign. The biggest game right now is Morton, and the biggest game after that will be the next league game.

"It's not going to be a massive build-up either in the camp - it's going to be all about our league campaign, and when the game comes around, then we can focus on it at the right time. But we won't mention it until the week of it.

"I understand it is a big game and a big event, and I understand there will by media hysteria, but from our point of view, that game is a long way off and between now and then, we have a lot of work to do in our league campaign."

Page 6: 19:42

Griffiths, who opened the scoring in the 10th minute of last season's League Cup clash, was more excited than the Rangers boss.

The 25-year-old wrote on Twitter: "What a draw...lets hope it's the same result as last time. Few big games before that though...hopefully today was a start of something."

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