They play in different divisions but it will be a level playing field when Celtic and Rangers meet in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden on Sunday, according to Ibrox winger Barrie McKay.
The 21-year-old tasted victory in his first ever final at the national stadium on Sunday, helping Rangers win the Petrofac Training Cup with a 4-0 win over Peterhead. In the immediate aftermath, talk was already turning towards the clash with Celtic, with McKay expected to make his Old Firm debut in front of a sell-out crowd.
He missed last season’s League Cup meeting between the Glasgow rivals as he was on loan at Raith Rovers. Having been with Rangers since the start of their lower league journey, and also spending time on loan with Greenock Morton, McKay has plenty of experience facing off against teams in higher divisions.
Celtic, due to their status as Ladbrokes Premiership leaders, have been made clear favourites for this Sunday’s encounter, though McKay believes Rangers have every chance of gaining victory and progressing to the final, citing the exploits of Championship clubs in the cup competitions this season as evidence. “We definitely believe we can do it,” he insisted. “Just because you are in a lower division doesn’t mean you can’t beat the teams in the higher league. We’ve already done it this season and so have Hibs, so that difference in division doesn’t really mean anything on the day.”
Some have suggested that Rangers will have the benefit of playing with little pressure due to the expectation that Celtic will prevail. McKay, however, is under no illusions. If you’re a Rangers player then, regardless of opposition, you are expected to win, he says.
“It doesn’t matter whether it is Barcelona you are playing against or anyone else, you go out there and the fans expect you to win,” said McKay.
“We’ve played with freedom the full season, but the pressure of being at this club is that you need to be winning every game. It’s a brilliant expectation. You want that type of pressure as a footballer and it is about how you deal with it.”
An attacking player who likes to get on the ball and create chances, it’ll be music to McKay’s ears to hear the Rangers manager insist the team will retain its attacking ethos and not change the shape or system to counter-act Celtic.
He shares the faith of everyone at the club who believes that, if Rangers perform to their capabilities, they can win.
“It’s about playing our own game and not be changing it up to suit any other team,” he added. “If we play the way we can play, we are confident that we can defeat anyone.”