Rangers v Hibernian Preview, SPFL Championship, Ibrox.

By Rory Buchanan

A (Cold) War of Words

There’s been a growing animosity between the blue side of Glasgow and the green side of Edinburgh since early summer. The Scott Allan saga, which we won’t go into here, seems to have caused Hibernian, or at least their manager, a great deal of annoyance towards Rangers and Mark Warburton. Although that may have had something to do with the 6-2 hammering they suffered at Easter Road in July.

Things heated up this week with Alan Stubbs apparently stating that Mark Warburton had an easy job at Rangers. While this is of course a ridiculous claim, Warburton to his credit has refused all summer to engage in any hostility – always retaining the mantra that his only focus of concern is Rangers. Until Wednesday night that is. He finally broke his silence, and suggested that any manner not aware of all the facts had better “keeps his mouth shut.” This was a positive change from the previous management regime, who always preferred not to engage in any negativity from opposition managers.

To be completely honest, this spat – and the Allan “saga” – is a storm in a pretty small teacup. It’s mostly a damning indictment of where Scottish football is at the minute that these issues, and a “star” player worth £275,000, are all the football media can use to sell papers. However, it can’t be denied that both factors have added a little bit of excitement to Sunday’s proceedings.

Rangers go into this game with not only five victories and 19 goals scored, but also playing a genuinely attractive style of football. Without doubt this is the most positive and enjoyable period of football the Ibrox support has been treated to in a great many years. The pace and attacking verve that Warburton has demanded from his squad is hugely refreshing in comparison to the lump in long style we’ve endured recently. The fact that Rangers have already managed to lay down a serious marker against Hibs in the squad’s first competitive game together would suggest a victory is somewhat ensured for the squad. However the past few years have taught the fans to never take any supposed victory for granted.

Warburton will mostly likely set out his squad in the same formation as last weekend against Alloa, with a possible change in the centre of defence and the left wing. I’ve placed my own preferred, and expected, formation below. Despite the fact this will probably be one of the biggest games of the season, I’ve no doubt the manager will be looking for nothing less than a three goal lead. He will want to completely dominate possession, and ensure a high tempo for the entire 90 minutes.

Key Player: Andy Halliday
Key Player: Andy Halliday

Key Players

Martyn Waghorn – The big striker has looked excellent in his first few games for the club; constantly holding up the ball, bringing team mates into the box, as well as wrong footing opponents regularly. The only criticism that can be aimed at him is he’s not scoring enough. He’s had plenty of shots on target, a few of which would surely be goal of the season contenders, but he just can’t seem to find the back of the net (his penalty last weekend not withstanding). He hasn’t scored in open play since his debut double against Hibs, so hopefully he uses that internal pressure to get another brace on Sunday. I perennially think he needs to start striking the ball just that little bit quicker, even if that means using his weaker right foot.

Barrie McKay – The young winger has been in sensational form since being brought back in from the wilderness by the new management team. Without being too cliched, he has seemed like a new player, and is so far living up to the potential he originally showed in 2012. If Rangers are to win the game, and hopefully by a decent margin, he’ll need to constantly get in amongst the Hibs defence, and continue to slide good balls to his team-mates. His performance on Wednesday at Ayr United was his best yet, with the movement for his goal particularly excellent.

Andy Halliday – The Govan born lad has been remarkable since his signing in July, and his work rate and intensity will need to hit top levels in this game. Hibs have a decent midfield, even without Allan, and Halliday will need to trap, stop and slide tackle everything that comes his way. His performances so far show a player who should be playing at a much higher level, and it’s hard to think of a tackle he’s shied from. A real engine in that defensive midfield position, he’ll need to not only stop anything going through the middle of the park, but also spray the ball amongst the attacking midfielders.

While I only want to focus on three specific players at this time, the defence will need to have their best game yet. So far they’ve looked like their both strolling through games, and also flailing from time to time. The partnership off Keirnan and Wilson is still finding it’s feet, and they’ll need to be careful to not lose any cheap goals through the middle of them. In addition to this both, wing backs will be looking to get forward as much as possible, but Tavernier in particular must ensure he doesn’t forget his defensive duties.

Predicted line-up:

Foderingham, Tavernier, Keirnan, Wilson, Wallace, Halliday, Law, Holt,

McKay, Waghorn, Oduwa.

Predicted score:

Rangers 4 – 1 Hibernian

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