Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha has challenged his Celtic counterpart Brendan Rodgers to join him in revealing his starting 11 in advance of Sunday’s Old Firm Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden.
Caixinha, who caused a stir earlier this month by breaking from convention to publicly name his team to face Kilmarnock the day before the match, insists he would be happy to do so again this weekend if Rodgers agreed to do the same.
As is his habit for every pre-match media conference, Caixinha entered the room at the Rangers training ground yesterday with a sheet displaying the line-up he expects the opposition to field. The Celtic team predicted on it was: Gordon, Lustig, Sviatchenko, Simunovic, Tierney, Brown, Armstrong, Forrest, Rogic, Sinclair and Dembele.
“We have doubts about their team,” admitted Caixinha. “The main doubt is whether McGregor or Rogic will play. That’s our major doubt regarding the opponent’s first 11.”
Caixinha said he only has one doubt about his own side, with veteran defender Clint Hill back in training after injury and in contention to replace 20-year-old David Bates.
“I could do it [name my team now],” said Caixinha. “Or we could do it like this. If you have Brendan’s mobile number you can call him and at the same time we could read out our teams. I have no problem with that. If he agrees, we will place the names on the table at the same time.”
The Portuguese coach also welcomed the presence of Scott Brown in the Celtic side, insisting he prefers the prospect of facing the Scottish champions’ strongest possible line-up. Brown is free to play at Hampden after Celtic lodged an appeal against the straight red card he received in last Sunday’s league match at Ross County. The SFA’s Easter holiday schedule means a fast track disciplinary hearing will take place a week later than normal, on 27 April, allowing Brown to avoid any potential suspension until after that date.
Caixinha has backed Celtic’s decision to appeal and admitted he would have done exactly the same in the circumstances.
“When someone comes and breaks the rules, you have other rules to test those rules,” said Caixinha. “We all do it. If I speed and I cannot afford to receive the speeding ticket, I will do something to try and avoid receiving it.
“Why not? It’s the human side. The laws are such that the lawyers know how to test them. That’s not a criticism. Of course if we were in the same situation, we would do the same thing clearly.
“Celtic have very good associations between their players and know exactly what they have to do at the moment. That’s what we expect and we are glad also that Scott Brown can play in this match.
“It is going to be a very interesting match and we want our opponents’ squad to be full. To have the older and more experienced players. I don’t know [if they would be weaker without Brown].
“I’m not talking about possibilities, I’m talking about reality. The reality is Brown is going to play and that means they are going with their best players and best squad. I am glad to face them under those conditions to test ourselves.”
Caixinha will make a decision today on whether Hill, sidelined since limping out of the 1-1 draw with Motherwell on 1 April, is ready to face Celtic.
“We will see if he can be with us or not,” said Caixinha. “I am going to talk to him to see how things are going and it’s a possibility. To have him in condition would make it an option. But I’m not telling you it can be an option. That’s my decision.”
Winger Michael O’Halloran, disciplined by Rangers earlier this month for failing to report to play in a Development League fixture with their under-20 side, is back in the first team squad this weekend.