There are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics.
A first glance at the fact Celtic have not beaten Rangers in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup in a run that stretches all the way back to 92 years may, in alternative circumstances, have caused a frission of anxiety within the Parkhead support. And yet, the portents for Celtic ahead of this meeting could hardly be more inviting.
Rangers have not beaten Celtic in four attempts this season, have scored three goals against the Parkhead side to the 9 that have been sunk at the other end, a difference in fortunes that is reflected in a chasm that yawns to the distance of 33 points in the current league table.
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The influence of Brendan Rodgers with his continual preaching of relentlessness and his drive for incessant improvement which appears to carry more substance than simple press conference rhetoric given the consistency of the results on offer has been clear in the grip that Celtic have held over the rest.
Rodgers’ side, of course, remain unbeaten in domestic competition. And suddenly that which has been in soft focus for much of this season is drawing into a sharp and cohesive vision.
Former Celtic playmaker Lubomir Moravcik was part of the last Hoops team under Martin O’Neill in the Irishman’s inaugural season at the club to win a Treble and he believes that replicating that feat is a question simply of belief.
Celtic have already banked the League Cup as well as the League Championship. Rangers will look to put a spoke in the wheel this weekend when the teams meet in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final, with the Ibrox side desperate to stop the momentum from Brendan Rodgers’ side.
“It is as much about your nerve and staying strong in your mind now,” said Moravcik. “A few years ago Celtic got to this stage too with Ronny [Deila] but there seems to be more belief and more momentum.
“You expect Celtic to do it. That is not to say that it is easy but I think the way they have played and they way they have beaten teams makes them look like a head above everyone.
“But as players, you know so much can go in just one game. So you need to stay strong. The thing I like about them just now is that they seem to have that belief in themselves. They look like a team that can come back from a disappointment and that is important.
“A cup game between the teams is special. I was lucky to experience that myself and having been on winning and losing sides I know what it feels like. This one is a little bit different again because it could be a Treble and that is not a chance that comes every season.”
Given the significance of Sunday’s game in the context of Celtic’s season – and Rangers’ too for that matter – the expectation is that it will lend a tension to the tie that hasn’t spiked so sharply in the league meetings between the teams this term.
Scott Brown will be free to play this Sunday following an appeal regarding last weekend’s red card at Dingwall. The exploitation of a loophole in the system has enabled the player to take his place for the game, something that might have felt like a small victory before a ball has been kicked given the influence the 31-year-old has exerted on the Parkhead side under Rodgers.
That was underlined yesterday when UEFA stats showed that Brown, so often dismissed as little more than aggression and energy, tops UEFA’s Champions League chart for the most amount of interceptions – 30 - made in games. That becomes more impressive given that he remains the leader four months after Celtic’s exit from the tournament.
Brown played in every minute of Celtic’s six games in the group stages of the tournament this season and Moravcik has applauded the influence he has had on Rodgers’ side.
“He has looked like a different player this season,” said Moravcik. “To me, so much of that is through training and what you are doing with the manager and the coaches.
“I know that he was not so fit last season but he still wanted to play but he has been so important throughout this campaign. Players like Scott are very big players because they know in games like this what it means to the club and what it means to the supporters.”
Henrik’s Heroes v Lubo’s Legends, a charity game for the Celtic Foundation, will take place at 2pm on May 28th at Celtic Park.