19 Apr Rangers with a chance
Rangers’ squad stands no comparison with Celtic but they should not be ruled out of a William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final win on Sunday, according to Chris Sutton.
The Ladbrokes Premiership champions go into the Hampden Park clash unbeaten in Scotland this season and in search of a domestic treble.
Brendan Rodgers’ side thrashed Rangers 5-1 in their first league meeting this season as they raced away from their Old Firm rivals for a sixth successive title win.
A 1-0 Betfred Cup semi-final win over the Light Blues at Hampden was followed by a 2-1 victory at Ibrox and the last meeting at Celtic Park ended in a 1-1 draw, with Portuguese coach Pedro Caixinha watching from the stand before taking charge.
“If you are a betting man you would be daft to bet against Celtic,” the former Parkhead striker turned pundit told Press Association Sport.
“But Celtic have won the treble three times in history so that tells you that is not an easy thing to do and they notoriously have a poor record in Scottish Cup semi-finals against Rangers.
“You still have to back Celtic but Rangers have been rejuvenated under Pedro Caixinha.
“Things couldn’t get much worse under Mark Warburton but there seems to have been a response and that 3-0 win at Aberdeen the other week was absolutely enormous for them.
“In terms of going into next season with the same squad, this current squad and team isn’t good enough to challenge Celtic for the title.
“But in a one-off game, they are on a high, they are playing with confidence and will feel they have a chance.
“Pride is a big thing in football and it was a big thing in the last game at Celtic Park for the Rangers players, in terms of desperation in not wanting to get beaten and humiliated as they had been earlier in the season.
“And on the flip side of that I felt Celtic had taken the foot off the pedal a little bit, although as of late they have been doing okay and are still unbeaten domestically.
“They have coasted because they have been so far in front but after that last result, where Rangers played very well at Celtic Park, I do feel Celtic will re-focus.”
Rangers beat Celtic in a penalty shoot-out at the same stage of the competition last season but it proved to be something of a false dawn for then manager Mark Warburton, who departed Ibrox in February.
Sutton insists a similar overreaction to a victory, should Caixinha guide Rangers through to the final and stop a possible Hoops treble, would again be folly.
Speaking in his role as the ambassador for Fantasfida, the new daily fantasy football game, he said: “There will be the desperation to stop Celtic getting the treble, that’s what the Rangers fans will want.
“It would be unbelievable for Caixinha if Rangers can beat Celtic but surely no one is going to get carried away like they did last season?
“We saw in the last Scottish Cup semi-final when Rangers beat Celtic. Nobody really expected that and it caused Rangers a lot of issues in terms of thinking they could challenge Celtic for the title.
“If you look at the two teams, how many Rangers players would get into the Celtic team?
“On this season’s performance I couldn’t think of one.
“It is not to say that on their day, as they proved at Celtic Park, they aren’t capable.
“Celtic are not going to underestimate them. They will say they didn’t but they did last time and I think it will be back to putting in disciplined performances as they did at the start of the season and in the Champions League.
“I am not saying they need to be at that level in terms of organisation, pressing and discipline, but that’s what they need to get back to.”
Sutton is the ambassador for Fantasfida, the new daily fantasy football game – log on to www.fantasfida.co.uk to play.