Celtic v Rangers- 3 key battles ahead of the Scottish Cup semi-final

Ameen Rabbani

On Sunday, Celtic and Rangers will lock horns for the fifth time this season in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup. For the Hoops the encounter represents one of the last hurdles in their quest to win an undefeated treble. And it might just prove to be the toughest.

Brendan Rodgers boasts a fine record in this derby with three wins and a draw. But the Gers are unbeaten under new boss Pedro Caixinha and recently picked up a morale boosting 3-0 win at Aberdeen.

Both managers have been talking a good game ahead of the Hampden clash and it could be decided by these three important battles. 

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Moussa Dembele vs Clint Hill

Having been nominated for Player of the Year, Dembele will be aiming to inflict more pain on Rangers. The 20-year-old has been in sensational form with 32 goals to his name, five of which have been scored against the Ibrox club.

The France under-21 international has bullied the Gers backline in the previous meetings between the sides. His pace, power, movement and energy have proven to be very difficult for Rangers to cope with and when he’s needed to be clinical Dembele’s not disappointed. He’ll be hoping to strike more fear into a defence that has looked better in recent weeks but is still vulnerable when put under pressure.

The man tasked with keeping the youngster quiet is the old and wily Clint Hill. The Englishman did a good job on Dembele in the last match at Parkhead and he’ll need to count on his experience to frustrate the ex Fulham prodigy. With doubts around Hill’s fitness lately, Dembele should be the favourite in this duel.

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Kenny Miller vs Jozo Simunovic

He may be 37 but the biggest threat to Celtic on Sunday will be Kenny Miller. Despite his age the Blues are still heavily reliant on the veteran and he’s proven to be their talisman with 12 goals this term. And if any Rangers player has performed decently against the Bhoys, it’s been Miller.

The former Scotland international scored in his side’s 2-1 defeat against the champions at Ibrox and led from the front in the 1-1 draw at Celtic Park last month. His record against the Hoops speaks for itself.

Jozo Simunovic is likely to be kept busy but he’s more than capable of handling Miller. The Croatian has established himself as a reliable individual who’s been at the heart of Celtic’s excellent defensive record. He’s a commanding figure on his day and he’ll need to show his solidity if Celtic are to progress to the final.

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James Forrest vs Myles Beerman

Rodgers has a tough decision to make this weekend. Does he play the in form Patrick Roberts or go with the tried and trusted option of James Forrest? It’s likely to be the latter.

Forrest is experiencing his best season in a green and white jersey for some time and he’s more likely to stretch Rangers in the early part of the game than Roberts. The Scotland winger might be licking his lips at the prospect of going head to head with Beerman.

The left-back only made his Rangers debut a fortnight ago and clearly hasn’t been tested in a game of this magnitude. The 18-year-old has earned plaudits for his displays against Kilmarnock, Aberdeen and Partick Thistle but this is a different occasion altogether.

There will certainly be question marks as to whether Beerman can handle the pressure and intensity of this fixture and if Forrest gets into his stride, the young man could be in for a long afternoon.

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