Martin O’Neill believes Rangers boss Michael Beale needs to lay down an Old Firm marker in Sunday’s ViaPlay Cup final at Hampden Park.
Despite winning 13 matches and drawing one – a 2-2 against Celtic at Ibrox – since taking over the hot seat at Ibrox, Beale has been unable to make a dent in the Hoops’ nine-point lead at the top of the cinch Premiership with the reigning champions looking likely to retain their crown.
O’Neill was Parkhead boss between 2000 and 2005 where he won three titles, three Scottish Cups and a League Cup – winning the domestic treble in his first season – while also guiding Celtic to the 2003 UEFA Cup final.
He believes Beale needs to land a blow on Parkhead counterpart Ange Postecoglou by winning the cup, the first piece of silverware of the season up for grabs.
O’Neill told talkSPORT: “I think so, I do. Since he has gone up there the results have been fine.
“Rangers haven’t closed the gap but they have kept it there because both teams have been winning football matches.
“But this is big. This is really big for Rangers.
“They are trying to win a trophy, they are trying to break Celtic’s control of Scotland at this minute.
“Postecoglou has done fantastically well and I have to say this is really big for Rangers.”
O’Neill admits missing the battles between the Glasgow giants and the excitement of Europe.
He added: “How would you not miss that?
“The Old Firm games were simply on another planet, there is no question about it. And Celtic Park on European nights is just stratospheric.”