AS Rangers booked their semi-final spot yesterday with a comfortable 4-1 win over Championship strugglers Falkirk and earned a mouthwatering tie against bitter rivals Celtic, all thoughts at the club would have turned immediately to a massive Old Firm Premiership showdown at Ibrox against Celtic next Sunday.

For probably the first time since the heady days of Mark Warburton (remember him?) Rangers go into a derby game against their fiercest rivals with some anticipation rather than trepidation.

Yes, it has taken the best part of two years for Rangers to build a team that in my opinion has a chance of toppling Celtic, but I think they really do have a chance.

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Graeme Murty has instilled some consistency into his team in terms of results and performances since coming back from the mid-season break. Nine wins from 10 in all competitions, scoring 30 goals, has ignited a belief that they could yet challenge the champions Celtic for the Premiership title this season.

Six points separate the two teams,albeit Celtic have a game in hand, but if Rangers can win on Sunday, not only will there be a genuine title race, but the gap that seemed cataclysmic just a year ago when Celtic looked like they could disappear over the horizon for years to come, will have been closed considerably.

This has mostly been in part due to Rangers transfer dealings in the January window. Jamie Murphy,Greg Docherty,Jason Cummings, Russell Martin and Sean Goss have given them not only pace and energy, but a real solid, British spine running through the team. They look a totally transformed team and along with Morelos and Windass in superb goalscoring form, they will really fancy their chances of turning over Celtic.

Jason Cummings bagged a hat-trick yesterday so that gives Murty a dilemma in the striking department too. Can you drop a striker after bagging three goals in his last game? Will Murty be bold and play the pair of them up top against Celtic?

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Of course, with that confidence will come an expectation from the fans. Celtic have not looked close to the team or hit the heights that they did last season, but that has been down in part to having huge injury problems to key players all season such as Leigh Griffiths and Stuart Armstrong.

But with that expectation from the Rangers fans will come a pressure. No longer are they the plucky underdogs hoping to snatch a draw. It’s not the case now that Rangers fans go into this fixture hoping that they don’t get embarrassed, it is now a genuine belief they can beat Celtic. And why wouldn’t they in their current form?

That could play right into the hands though of Brendan Rodgers, who will know that Rangers will come out and be urged to attack from start to finish by their punters. It will be a totally different game from Murty’s previous two encounters against Celtic when he has went to Parkhead as huge underdogs,played tight, and hit Celtic on the counter attack. That will not be an option at Ibrox on Sunday with 50,000 roaring them forward. So it will be interesting to see how Rangers line up and what tactics are employed on the day.

At the back Rangers still don’t look completely assured, particularly from set pieces, so it could be that Bruno Alves comes back in to solidify that area of the park. With James Tavernier and Declan John likely to bomb forward at every chance, it will be massively important that Rangers have a solidity in central defence.

From a Celtic point of view, they know that a victory at Ibrox will bury any aspirations that Rangers have of winning the league title this season. It all but clinches the Premiership. Celtic showed up in Aberdeen that they have the quality and the bottle in the big games. They have proved time and time again over the past few years that when their nearest challengers get a chance of getting close to them, that they can quickly snuff them out. They have that big game experience. Rangers don’t yet.

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I do feel that Celtic have coasted a little bit at times this season and haven’t shown the same intensity in pressing opponents. They have just expected them to give them the ball back due to their quality, or lack of, rather than going and winning it back and getting at teams high up the pitch. That has meant teams actually getting a bit of joy against Celtic. I don’t think that will be the case against Rangers. If it is, then we might finally have a title race on our hands.

Before the Old Firm game on Sunday we will have another crackerjack of a derby game in Edinburgh on Friday night. Hearts’ season took a massive blow yesterday as they got dumped out the Scottish Cup by Motherwell. They remain 9 points behind Hibs and a win for the Hibees at Easter Road would leave Hearts scrambling for a place in the Top 6.

Craig Levein had his say about natural order being maintained after his side knocked Hibs out of the Scottish Cup. Neil Lennon has his chance to reply on Friday.