CELTIC V RANGERS (SCOTTISH CUP SEMI-FINAL: SUNDAY 23RD APRIL 2017; 12:00PM)
It's the biggest game of the season as Celtic face Rangers for the fifth time this season, with the treble and an unbeaten domestic record on the line.
Team Selection: Brendan Rodgers has two big decisions to make: picking either Patrick Roberts or James Forrest for the right-wing position and if to start main playmaker Tom Rogic, who is just back from a long injury lay-off. In my opinion, Forrest will get the nod over Roberts, despite Roberts' recent good form. Rodgers will want to pick his strongest team, and for me that includes Forrest, who should have a field day with the wide pitch of Hampden. Roberts is more suited to an impact player type of role, he could do plenty of damage coming on and running at Rangers with twenty minutes to go.
Unfortunately, despite being a massive fan of his, I can't see Tom Rogic starting the game. Against Ross County he both looked and played like a man just back from injury, giving the ball away and looking exhausted after an hour. In Glasgow Derbies you need 100% fitness, so I just can't see Rogic starting, but he could have a role similar to Roberts, coming on as a late sub.
After last week's 'experimental' three at the back system, I can see Celtic reverting back to the usual 4-2-3-1 style.
Obviously Craig Gordon will be in goal, the defence should have Simunovic and Boyata as the centre-half pairing, as although he had an indifferent game against Rangers last month Boyata is in far better form than Sviatchenko, who has went completely off the boil and turned in another poor performance last week. Tierney and Lustig will be the full-backs as usual, Lustig is due a big game against Rangers, and Tierney will be a big threat going forward.
In midfield, Scott Brown can of course play thanks to the SFA being on holiday, and wouldn't it be sweet if he ran the game...and even scored the winner? I would play Callum McGregor as the other holding midfielder, he has the ability to get stuck in and doesn't hide in big games unlike others *cough* Bitton.
The in-form Stuart Armstrong whose injury changed the Derby last month will start, as should James Forrest for the reasons outlined above. Scott Sinclair - match winner at Ibrox in December - will be out to prove that his poor performance against Rangers was a one-off, as will the again fully fit Moussa Dembele, hoping to add to his tally of five goals against Rangers this season. Leigh Griffiths could have a part to play off the bench as well.
So the team I would start is: Gordon, Lustig, Boyata, Sviatchenko, Tierney; McGregor, Brown, Forrest, Armstrong, Sinclair; Dembele
Previous Meetings: Our last victory over Rangers in the Scottish Cup was in 2011, a memorable night at Celtic Park which involved three red cards (for Rangers), a 'fracas' between Neil Lennon, El Hadji Diouf and Ally McCoist, and Mark Wilson knocking out Sasa Papac with the only goal of the game. Those were the days...
Prediction: There is something of the unknown about this game, as it is the first time Celtic will have faced Rangers under the management of Pedro Caixinha, there's also the natural tension and fear of these games, no player wants to make the ultimate mistake which costs their team the game. Aside from our legendary 5-1 victory earlier in the season, the scorelines in the games - if not the actual play of the game itself - have been tight, with a 1-0 and 2-1 wins for Celtic and the recent 1-1 draw. This game should also be very close, and may even go to extra time, but I feel that the players that Celtic have on the bench will be the eventual match winners.
Celtic 2 Rangers 1 (AET)