Glasgow Rangers (H) Preview

Last updated : 08 January 2005 By Kevin Smith

Celtic v Rangers

Tennents Scottish Cup Round Third Round

Sunday 9th January 2005

Celtic Park

Kick Off 12.15, Live On Sky Sports 1

When I sat down to watch the draw for the Third Round of this season’s Scottish Cup, I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed with anticipation as to who we would get. When Celtic’s name was drawn out of the hat as the home side, I was expecting the away side to be some Second Division side like Dumbarton. When the opposition was revealed as Rangers, I clenched my fist with delight. I knew then that this will be our chance for revenge.

Two defeats in ten days at Ibrox had the media in a frenzy. Non-stories about the balance of power shifting and Martin O’Neill losing the dressing room emerged but anyone who thought twice about it knew there was no panic at Celtic. In my opinion, both of the Old Firm games away could have and should have went our way. The League Cup game saw us pay the price for dilly-dallying while a goal ahead, in the SPL match we lost the place and threw away any chance we had of taking anything from it.

Martin O’Neill’s “gesture” with Neil Lennon was a rallying call to the Celtic support. While he held Lennon in his arms after the match that day, it was clear he would be counting the days until he got his chance at revenge. Tomorrow, he has that chance.

I stand by the theory that you simply cannot predict the outcome of a Celtic v Rangers game. We can all guess, we can all think wishfully and we can all hope to God it goes our way, but the truth is, no one can tell exactly what will happen until the players chosen to play on that day take to the field and the whistle blows. But, there are a few things we can avoid, and a few things we can do, to help us on our way.

First up is discipline. It is a footballing crime to lose your discipline and get sent-off in an Old Firm game. Ask Mr Thompson and Mr Sutton about that. Okay, so Thompson didn’t merit his red card in November, but whether he deserved it or not, he lost his discipline. Thommo should not be rising to the bait from little weasels like Peter Lovenkrands. He should have known better, and if he had simply ignored him, we would have won the game. As for Sutton, acting like you are playing a bounce-match in training is never going to get you anywhere. We can not afford to finish the game with less that eleven Celtic jerseys on the pitch on Sunday.

Next we have to look at playing football, and doing the business, winning the game. We have showed on several, if not enough, occasions this season, that we are capable of wiping the floor with teams. On our day we are a good footballing side, and we should be putting teams to the sword quicker and easier than we tend to do.

Obviously, we are going to miss Neil Lennon in the midfield. Martin O’Neill may opt to bring in Paul Lambert to fill his space, but Lambert has not started any games this season, and will be very rusty. This, of course, could work in his favour as he will be fresh and raring to go. Another option would be to play Juninho as well as McGeady; a combination which has not been tried before and certainly would be risky. But I think the more realistic option would be to play Didier Agathe, if fit, and move Stan Petrov into his regular position in the middle.

If doing this, the “McGeady or Juninho” question will once again be asked. Personally, I would play Juninho. I know he has not played much this season and he has only shown little signs of promise, but I would give him a chance tomorrow and if does not grab it then we can probably accept that he is going to be a failure at this club, and we can stick with McGeady for the remainder of the season. Remember Juninho’s debut? He won Man of the Match in a Celtic v Rangers game at Parkhead. Play him tomorrow.

Big John Hartson will be looking to celebrate penning a new contract with a goal. He will likely partner Chris Sutton up-front and Henri Camara will stay on the bench. The Sutton and Hartson partnership is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I believe the two of them hold the key to success for victory tomorrow. Rangers have sold their main man, Boumsong, so their defence is likely to include duds like Zurab, Fat Boab FTP, Marvin Andrews and Vignal. If they play their cards right, Sutton and Hartson will run riot against a defence like this.

Rangers are also still notably weak at set-pieces, which are a Celtic strong point. When we get corners and free-kicks in the Rangers half, we should look to make them count.

If the last two games are anything to go by, Rangers will be out to kick us off the park. We are bigger than this and if we resort to retaliation tactics then we are shooting ourselves in the foot. In the last SPL game, Rangers tried it on and we fell for it. We lost the place and lost the game. We cannot let this happen again tomorrow.

Their biggest threat will be their midfield. If we can control the centre of the park then we have no worries. Neil Lennon put a stop to Alex Rae doing anything at Celtic Park last time around, someone should aim to do the same tomorrow.

As tomorrow is a cup game, a draw would take the game back to Ibrox for a replay. This is surely the best hope Rangers have, as they have not won at Celtic Park in over four years. And no, they are not due a win, they are due a humping.

The previous Old Firm game was a pretty stormy encounter so tomorrow’s game will be under close scrutiny by almost everyone. Usually, games with this kind of edge to it result in pretty quiet affairs but we shall wait and see. It’s just a pity Mr Lovenkrands is injured as a few Bhoys have some scores to settle with him.

If our players keep the head and do what we are capable of, we will win the match, and progress to the next round of the Scottish Cup. We know what we can do, it’s about time we started doing it!

Come On The Hoops!

Celtic 2-0 Rangers