Glasgow giants Rangers and Celtic are set to face off for the 330th time in these illustrious clubs’ history in the Scottish Cup semi-final on Sunday, but perhaps no previous clash has been more anticipated than this one.
With the stakes high and this just the second meeting since the 2011-12 campaign, here are five things to look out for when these great adversaries go head-to-head at Hampden Park.
Griffiths could write his name into Celtic folklore
Even the most ardent ‘Gers fan would have to admit that Leigh Griffiths is having rather a good season for the Parkhead club.
Having struck a sensational 28 times in 30 Ladbrokes Premiership games, the 25-year-old Edinburgh native is already a fans favourite at Celtic Park, having been the catalyst behind their table-topping form this season.
However, a Hampden goal against Rangers would likely give the striker truly legendary status among Hoops fans, and having scored in the clubs’ last meeting – a 2-0 win for the Bhoys – he’s a man for the big occasion.
Rangers’ midfield poses a goalscoring threat
The Ibrox club are heading to the Ladbrokes Premiership next season, and they already have a midfield equipped to mix it with the top-flight’s best sides – including Celtic.
Midfield men Andy Halliday and Jason Holt have nine and 10 goals apiece this season, with the experienced Dean Shiels on five.
If Celtic sit off the Light Blues midfield and allow them to take long-range shots, they will do so at their peril.
Mark Warburton experiences his first Old Firm clash
As a former currency dealer in the City of London, Mark Warburton knows a few things about high-stakes, but chances are he will never have known pressure quite like this.
Even considering the affable manager’s popularity at Ibrox, defeat in this game could be a very difficult experience for the ‘Gers boss.
Just like his players, Warburton will have to maintain his usual composed demeanour, and approach this game with the professionalism which has seen them pick up 79 points (and counting) in this season’s Ladbrokes Championship, and dispatch Premiership sides Dundee and Kilmarnock in this competition.
Ex-Tangerines keen to make new Cup memories
Now both on the Hoops’ books, Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong were in the Dundee United side who fell afoul of St Johnstone in the 2014 Scottish Cup Final, as the Perth club lifted their first ever major trophy.
Two of Scottish football’s most naturally gifted players, the former Tangerines duo will be desperate to add a Scottish Cup winners’ medal to their resume, and victory over Rangers would be a huge step towards that goal.
Armstrong told the Daily Record recently, “I’m just happy to be part of the team [at Celtic].” Chances are that enjoyment would increase tenfold if the prospect of another cup final awaited. These two Bhoys stars will need no motivation whatsoever from boss Ronny Deila.
The atmosphere will be incredible
The noise at any Old Firm clash will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up – but the atmosphere at Hampden is likely to be on another level.
With this the first meeting of the clubs since early 2015, and the most high-stakes clash of these titans in years, this cup classic is set to produce a deafening atmosphere, especially from the side who claim victory.
Right now, both sides have reasons to be optimistic of grabbing the Glasgow bragging rights, and a place in the Scottish Cup Final.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing