Rangers could cause Scottish Cup shock against Celtic

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There is absolutely no doubt that if you compare the standards of Rangers this season compared to last, then even the most pessimistic of supporters will tell you they're well on their way back to competing in the top flight of Scottish football.

For it's a complimentary nod to the work that former Brentford boss Mark Warburton has done since being appointed as manager of the Glasgow giants in the Summer.

The Englishman came to a club in disarray and one that had failed to secure their minimum aim of being promoted to the Scottish Premiership via the play-offs. However, much work was done in the Summer transfer window to overhaul a squad that was severely underachieving and disappointing any football fan that cared to watch them. 


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Players such as Martyn Waghorn, Andy Halliday, Wes Foderingham, Dominic Ball, and Danny Wilson (who captained the Hearts side that strolled to the Championship title last season) all came through the gates of Ibrox before the start of the campaign - and they've all been a revelation ever since.

Fast forward seven months and Rangers have already achieved promotion from the Championship and have finally secured promotion to the league they were thrown out of four years ago due to liquidation.

They've also made it to the final of the Petrofac Training Cup in Warburton's first year at the club, a competition that has brought much pain and embarrassment to the Light Blues in the last few years.

However, most importantly - and perhaps most intriguingly - a semi-final clash against Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden awaits later this month.

The tie triggered memories of last season's League Cup semi-final mismatch at the same venue, where Celtic ran out comfortable winners in a 2-0 success that could easily have been five or six on another day. 

This year should be a different animal, such is the extent of the improvements already made at Murray Park. Rangers are flying, whereas Celtic are stuttering along in the Premiership - failing to shrug off the credible title challenge from Aberdeen. The Gers are playing some free-flowing football, with the Hoops struggling to impress their fans on a weekly basis. 

Nevertheless - it should all add up to a Celtic win.

Celtic's Strengths

As much as the increase in quality has impressed many onlookers this season, Warburton will be the first to admit that his Rangers side are still work-in-progress. They're still a side who have a considerable way to go before they can event think of challenging Celtic for the Premiership title next season.

The Parkhead side have a plethora of players who've already sampled the Old Firm derby and know what to expect heading into it.

Kris Commons, Charlie Mulgrew, Scott Brown, Nir Bitton, Leigh Griffiths, Craig Gordon, and Mikael Lustig have all won derbies in the past - an experience that is invaluable going into a crucial cup clash against your rivals.

Celtic haven't been playing the fast, attractive, attacking football that Ronny Deila promised when he came through the door a year-and-a-half ago, but they still have a calibre of player and experience that Warburton would love to have in his squad.

Added to that is the fact that these Celtic players have won trophies throughout their careers.

It was only last season that they secured a double in winning the League Cup and the Premiership title, and they know how to get the younger players such as Callum McGregor, Stuart Armstrong, and Kieran Tierney through high-pressure games.

A lot of Rangers' attacking threat comes down the right side with full-back James Tavernier bombing up-and-down the wing. However, against Celtic, that freedom won't be there due to the no-nonsense approach of young left-back Tierney. With a choice of Scott Allan, Ryan Christie, Stuart Armstong, Gary Mackay-Steven, or Kris Commons - the Hoops have a host of options to keep Tavernier occupied defensively.

Rangers Must Change Approach

Changes in their approach haven't occurred much this season for Rangers due to their freedom all over the park, as well as the amount of gaps teams leave due to low fitness levels. Against Celtic, that will change.

Warburton must go to a more defensive-formation in a bid to stop the quality that the Hoops provide, as that's been proven to be the best way to combat Celtic. Leaving gaps all over the place due to a all-out-attack formation would be criminal, as despite their poor form, Celtic still have the players to punish teams in Scotland if they have the space.

Rangers have had a sensational season, and have the correct leader in charge to take them to the next level and compete with the likes of Celtic and Aberdeen over time. Of course on any given day cup shocks can occur, but that's exactly what it would be should the Gers defeat their Glasgow rivals next month - a cup shock.

Can Rangers upset Celtic in the Scottish Cup? Have YOUR say in the comment section below!

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Scotland Football
Henrik Larsson

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