THE main concern for Ange Postecoglou this week won’t be around putting Rangers back in their place, but on delivering the latest piece of silverware of his reign into the Celtic trophy cabinet. There is no doubting however that a perk of a Celtic victory for their manager in the Viaplay Cup Final would be the quelling of recent signs of a resurgence on the other side of the city in the process.

No matter the outcome, it would already seem too late for the psychological fallout from this match to have any bearing on where this season’s Premiership title will be heading, but Postecoglou won’t want to give Rangers and new manager Michael Beale any encouragement whatsoever that they might have a shot at landing the big domestic prize next time around.

For now, Postecoglou will be focused on getting the best out of his team at Hampden on Sunday, a venue where it could be argued his side haven’t always been at their free-flowing best over the last couple of years.

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There have been precious few low points under his guidance so far for Celtic, but the Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Rangers at the national stadium last season may well be a score he is keen to settle.

To do so, he has some key considerations to mull over in the lead-up to a huge afternoon at Hampden.


The importance of Daizen Maeda’s energy on the left of the Celtic attack in his side’s pressing means he will be favourite to start on that side, particularly after his goal at Ibrox in the latest meeting between these teams. Which then leaves a question mark over who supports central striker Kyogo from the other wing.

Jota’s recent upturn in form after a frustrating period through illness and injury will perhaps be enough to convince Postecoglou to go with the hugely talented Portuguese winger, who has also scored crucial goals against Rangers in the past.

Abada though can also make such a claim, and the joy he has got out of ghosting in from the right against Borna Barisic in this fixture must also give him a fair to reasonable chance of being handed a jersey.

Either way, Barisic certainly won’t be relishing the defensive shift that lies ahead of him, an area of his game that both of these players are capable of exploiting ruthlessly.


There were certainly some eyebrows raised when Postecoglou gave James Forrest what is now a rare start when he took his side to Ibrox at New Year, opting for the vastly experienced winger ahead of debutant Alistair Johnston on the right-hand side.

While Forrest still has plenty about him and commands respect for what he has achieved at Celtic, it was a surprise to see him start the game, and no surprise to see him removed on the hour with Rangers having grasped the initiative in the match.

It would be even more surprising if Postecoglou again went to the veteran this time around, but as the Celtic manager has shown, it can be tricky to second guess him.


It is to Mooy’s great credit that he has forced his way into a Celtic midfield three that looked absolutely nailed on to start the big games, and it is O’Riley who has been the man to make way recently.

Mooy’s emergence as a creative force in the middle of the park for Celtic coincided with the first drop in form from the highly consistent O’Riley since his arrival from MK Dons last January, with his recent goal against St Mirren in the Scottish Cup remarkably the only time he has found the net during this campaign.

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Mooy was left out of the thumping win over Aberdeen as a precaution at the weekend, and O’Riley more than seized his opportunity with a fine display in which he appeared to rediscover something of his swagger.

If Mooy is fit, it will be a huge call for Postecoglou, but the Australian has probably done enough since returning from the World Cup to show he deserves the nod alongside Callum McGregor and Reo Hatate.


For all that Rangers full-back Barisic has had a torrid time of it defensively in recent Old Firm fixtures, the Croatian does have a potentially lethal weapon in his arsenal in the shape of his deliveries into the area.

Johnston handled being thrown in at Ibrox admirably and has barely put a foot wrong since coming in to replace Josip Juranovic, with the Canadian international taking to Scottish football with remarkable ease.

He will have to be at his best once more to contend with the Rangers threat down their left-hand side, but he has shown signs of being more than up to the task.


Postecoglou always wants his team to play their football no matter what, but the Hampden pitch may be the biggest obstacle between them doing that if it is anything like as poor as it was for the semi-final against Kilmarnock.

It will be reassuring to the Celtic manager though that his men solved a similar problem recently against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park, bypassing the rutted field by going a little more direct, and showing another string to their bow by brushing the Saints aside.

They may need to handle similar conditions – lamentably – at the national stadium, with the weather having hardly improved over recent weeks. But while Postecoglou may gripe about it in his post-match interview, he won’t allow it to be used as an excuse for a poor performance.