A familiar fixture
The country’s oldest cup competition has become a regular meeting place at this time of the year for Glasgow’s big two. This weekend’s match-up will mark the fifth time in six years that the pair have been drawn against each other in the tournament, and their fourth semi-final at Hampden over that period. All of these ties have come in April. Rangers triumphed in their most recent meeting, a 2-0 in a fifth round tie at Ibrox almost exactly a year ago. Prior to that came three last four clashes in 2018, 2017 and 2016. Celtic handed out a 4-0 thumping four years ago, having strolled to a 2-0 win 12 months earlier en route to an unbeaten domestic treble. Six years ago came one of their most epic encounters of recent times. Rangers, then fresh from clinching the Championship, stunned their out-of-sorts rivals with a display of poise. The pair couldn’t be separated over 120 minutes, though, with Ronny Deila’s team twice restoring parity for a 2-2 outcome. The first penalty shoot-out between the duo in a major tournament was then required to settle the issue, with Rangers prevailing 5-4 in it.
Hampden a happy home for Celtic and an unhappy one for Rangers
Celtic, incredibly, have won on their past 17 cup visits to the Mount Florida arena. The longest such run in the history of the Scottish game. Aside from the League Cup semi-final and final victories in this campaign, the sequence covers their quadruple treble seasons between 2016-17 and 2019-20. The one exception was the 2018 League Cup last four tie, that 3-0 success over Hearts then being staged at Murrayfield. Aberdeen are the team to have suffered most at Celtic’s hands at Hampden over this period, with five cup defeats. Rangers and Hibs are on the four mark, with Motherwell and Hearts beaten twice and St Johnstone once.
Rangers, in contrast, have endured some grim afternoons at the national stadium over the same six seasons. And that is even aside from their four losses to Celtic - two of which came in the League Cup, with a semi-final exit in 2016 and an agonising final loss three years later. In all, they have only one win from their past eight visits to Hampden. Without a national cup capture since their League Cup triumph of 2011 (two years after they last won the Scottish Cup), that victory came with a 3-0 beating of Hearts in the 2019 League Cup semi-final. The upshot of this record is that Rangers’ last Scottish Cup success at the national stadium was their 2016 semi-final shoot-out over Celtic.
Captains with staying power
When it comes to the three derby dust-ups in the Scottish Cup at Hampden between the Glasgow behemoths over the past six years, there are precious few constants. In 2016 the managers ranged against one another were Ronny Deila in the green corner and Mark Warburton in the blue one. Each of the clubs have since had two permanent managers to now be under the charge of Ange Postecoglou and Giovanni van Bronckhorst. Yet the two players that will lead out Celtic and Rangers on Sunday will be well versed in such occasions. Callum McGregor appeared as a substitute in the 2016 semi-final. The Celtic fulcrum then claimed goals in his team’s wins at the same stage in the following two years. Never before, though, has he captained his team on such an afternoon.
Rangers armband wearer James Tavernier will be the only player in the Ibrox ranks at the weekend to have previously experienced a last four tie in the Scottish Cup against Celtic at the national stadium. He was stationed in his obligatory right-back berth for the encounters in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Only for the third of those confrontations did he lead the Ibrox side.
The Tom Rogic factor
If there is one Celtic player that Rangers are likely to be apprehensive of facing at Hampden, it is surely Australian playmaker Tom Rogic. And not simply because the 29-year-old bagged the equaliser that helped earn a crucial 2-1 victory for Ange Posteocoglou’s men over their fiercest foes in the league at Ibrox earlier this month. Rogic is poised to join Callum McGregor and James Tavernier on Sunday as the only performers who will complete a quartet of Scottish Cup semi-finals between the ancient adversaries inside the past six years. And he has been in the thick of it in the previous three. He climbed off the bench to net a glorious equaliser to make it 2-2 in 2016…only to then sky over the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Two years later, he had a more satisfying afternoon as he plundered the opener in a 4-0 drubbing handed out to an Ibrox team then helmed by interim manager Graeme Murty. A player who often produces his best on the major occasions, Rogic’s Ibrox strike the other week was his sixth against Rangers across his nine-and-a-bit years with the club. That return is bettered only by his goal output against Motherwell, with seven goals his haul against the Fir Park side.
The wait goes on
The fact that the Scottish Cup semi-final draw ensured that the two Glasgow clubs would not contest the final extends the longest absence of a decider between the pair in modern times. Rangers’ 3-2 defeat of Celtic to claim the trophy in May 2002 was the twosome’s last such dust-up. They did not meet in a Scottish Cup final between 1938 and 1963, but the Second World War meant the competition was not staged between 1940 and 1946. Between their finals of 1963 and 2002, the longest gap in them competing for the trophy was the 10 years between 1989 and 1999.