IT is not that long since Rangers went into Old Firm encounters knowing that competing with Celtic was as much as they could realistically hope to achieve. Now, it is the very least James Tavernier demands.

The derby clashes have produced more than their share of bruising affairs for Tavernier during his five years at Ibrox as the wins - one at Hampden and two at Ibrox - have been all too rare for respective managers and long-suffering supporters.

Rangers are a far different proposition these days under the guidance of Steven Gerrard and those victories on home soil last term will give his players belief as they head to Hampden for the most important Old Firm showdown for some time.

But Tavernier will also take lessons from the last fixture into this one as well. If Rangers are to win the war on Sunday, first they must win the battle.

“I believe we wasted the first 45 minutes,” Tavernier said of the Premiership fixture in September that saw Celtic run out comfortable 2-0 winners at Ibrox. “We didn’t compete, they got an early goal and we were chasing the game.

“In a game like this you need to compete from the first whistle but the players are more experienced now and they know that. The players have competed a lot this season.

"A few of us will speak before going out and the gaffer will have his say too.

“At a club like this it’s the same for every game, we know what’s expected of us.

“If we apply ourselves the way we know we can then I have full belief in this squad.

“These games are all about the challenges you put in, closing down your opponent.

“You need to show aggression, it’s been evident in the games where we have lacked it.

“Feyenoord and the second half really against Aberdeen are the fresh examples.

“We need to do it for 90 minutes. We didn’t play well in the first half against Feyenoord, but we did in the second.

“It was roles reversed for the Aberdeen game. But I think over the piece this season we have been a lot better in terms of consistency.”

The chance to lead Rangers out at Hampden in an Old Firm final is one that few players get the privilege of experiencing during their careers.

This, therefore, could be the most significant 90 minutes of Tavernier's career. It is an occasion he is determined to rise to.

He said: “I believe the role of captain is important and I believe having the experience of playing in finals is important too. I will get round the boys before the game on Sunday that’s for sure. It’s another game although the magnitude of this one is heightened with it being an Old Firm cup final.

“It’s another game against Celtic and I believe if we listen to the game-plan and that show we want it more then I have belief in the team.

“Any game like this I think it comes down to who wants it more. We believe in each and we know we have to compete from the first whistle.

“If that doesn’t happen you can be exploited and I’ve seen that in previous games we’ve played.

“You’ve got to go toe-to-toe with them straight away, we have to try and upset them.”

Victory over Celtic would see new heroes made and could define Rangers' season as Gerrard looks to take the club back to where they belong this term.

It is the third match in a huge month and Tavernier knows the progression made under Gerrard must now become something more tangible sooner rather than later.

He said: “We have to win silverware. You can’t be a Rangers player and be second best at anything so we have to win silverware. The foundations of this club are built on silverware and we have to deliver.

“It is a good step in the right direction [if we win]. It is an early trophy.

"It is a long season to go but it would be a really good step in the right direction for where the club is going.

“It is a massive week for the club. The players and everyone involved are all buzzing for a cup final and after that out full focus will be on Young Boys because we have a really good chance of topping our table which would put us in a good position. But first and foremost we need to get the job done on Sunday.”