Six vital contests ahead of Sunday’s Old Firm clash at Hampden

first_imgBoth players are considered somewhat spiritual figures for their respective teams, with Halliday a boyhood Rangers fan. Motivation won’t be an issue for either player, with their energy and drive key to the identity of both teams.Halliday carries more of a goal threat than Brown, notching nine times over the course of the season. He operates farther up the pitch than his Celtic counterpart – there are stylistic differences between the two – but in terms of their fundamental qualities Brown and Halliday are comparable. SNS Roberts has been a shining light for the Scottish champions in recent weeks, providing balance to Ronny Deila’s favoured 4-2-3-1 system. After the failed experiment with Colin Kazim-Richards on the wing against Kilmarnock, the on-loan Manchester City man announced himself with a double against Hearts.Able to play down the flanks but also comfortable in central areas, the young Englishman has made a real impression for the Hoops and he will come up against Lee Wallace.In the Championship the Rangers captain has room to bomb forward and play as a second winger with Barrie McKay. However at Hampden he will have to stay focused on the defensive side of his game.Wallace will be expected to lead by example and ensure the Rangers back four remain disciplined throughout against Celtic’s attacking four. SNS GroupJames Tavernier has been something of a sensation for the Ibrox club this season, netting 14 times over the course of the campaign. His stunning volley in the Petrofac Training Cup final on Sunday provided one of the moments of the season so far.However, as undoubtedly good as Tavernier is on the attack there have been questions asked of him defensively. Opposition sides know there is significant space to be exploited in behind the 24-year-old and Celtic – unlike many Championship teams – have the weapons to make the most of that.Gary Mackay-Steven will most likely start on the left flank for the Hoops, with the 25-year-old finally finding form recently after a difficult season – scoring three goals in his last six appearances. He has the pace and slipperiness to give Tavernier problems, as does Kieran Tierney, who like his Rangers counterpart is better at going forwards than backwards. SNS GroupDefensively, there are a lot of ifs and buts concerning Ronny Deila’s selection for Sunday’s Old Firm clash, with most of them regarding the fitness of Erik Sviatchenko. The Dane has become a first team figure for the Hoops since joining in January, but might not make it for this weekend (although Deila insists he has a chance). Should Sviatchenko fail to make the starting lineup then Charlie Mulgrew could take on Miller. There is also doubt over who will play up front for Rangers, with Martyn Waghorn missing the last two months of action through injury. He too could still make Sunday’s match at Hampden, but if he doesn’t Kenny Miller will carry Rangers’ goalscoring burden.Miller has proved invaluable to the Ibrox club in Waghorn’s absence, scoring five goals in his last six appearances as Rangers clinched the Championship title and Petrofac Training Cup. At 36 it was questioned whether the veteran striker would be able to adapt to the methods of Warburton, but he has more than contributed to the Ibrox club’s season. He could make his biggest contribution yet on Sunday. SNS After failing to get a look in under Ally McCoist, Barrie McKay has been transformed since the arrival of Mark Warburton as boss.A virtual ever-present this term, a lot of Rangers play goes through the exciting winger and he has had a direct impact on 30% of Rangers’ league goals (as per Rangers Report). With the focus on exploiting space on the flanks, through wingers and full-backs, McKay will have to lift his recent performances after suffering a slight dip over the past month.The 21-year-old’s contribution will be vital for the Championship winners due to the absence of Harry Forrester through injury.Mikael Lustig will be tasked with keeping the Scotland U21 international quiet and his dependable and resolute nature makes this a thrilling contest. Vastly experienced with 50 caps for Sweden, Lustig has taken on and succeeded against illustrious opponents such as Neymar in the Champions League.This duel between youth and experience could have a major bearing on the outcome of the match. This Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final will see rivals Rangers and Celtic come up against each other, with a place in the competition’s final on the line. But there’s more than just that at stake in the event of an Old Firm derby. This is about rivalry, bragging rights and everything else in between. Both teams sit atop their respective leagues, with Rangers already crowned Championship winners and Celtic on course for a fifth-successive top flight title.But where will Sunday’s match at Hampden Park be won and lost? We take a look at the key battles. SNS Group Celtic’s number nine is enjoying the season of his life as he closes in on 40 domestic goals for the campaign. A double against Motherwell brought his total to 37 in 48 matches and there’s no doubt he will lead the line for the Scottish champions.Plenty of questions have been asked over Rangers’ defensive record and the back four is likely to face their toughest examination yet. Danny Wilson is likely to square up against Griffiths and he may require some help from Dominic Ball to keep the Scotland international at bay.Both Jason Cummings and Michael O’Halloran have caused real problems for Wilson this term and he is likely to need help from Dominic Ball, should the on-loan Spurs man remain in his defensive midfield role. SNS GroupWith so much at stake and passions running high, derby matches can often descend into midfield slugfests. Celtic skipper Brown and ‘Gers midfielder Halliday are likely to be at the heart of the action, providing the platform for their team’s creative players to flourish.last_img read more