Six things to look out for in Sunday’s Old Firm Scottish Cup semi-final

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Joel Sked gives his take on the fourth Old Firm derby of the season as Celtic and Rangers meet at Hampden Park on Sunday in the Scottish Cup semi-final

Will Kenny Miller start?

Captains Scott Brown and James Tavernier will lead their respective sides into battle on Sunday at Hampden. Picture: Steve Welsh

Captains Scott Brown and James Tavernier will lead their respective sides into battle on Sunday at Hampden. Picture: Steve Welsh

As soon as the 38-year-old opened the scoring against Dundee on Saturday the headlines were being written: KENNY MILLER HAS TO START AGAINST CELTIC.

But does he?

The fine strike was his first since the end of October when he returned from the cold to inspire the side to victory against Hearts. Look at the goal more closely, and Miller gave up possession very easily. Only some proactive defensive play from Russell Martin put Rangers on the front foot again.

The debate over whether Miller should start for Rangers largely comes down to production and influence. In terms of build-up play and numbers the former Celtic forward has largely been ineffective and on some occasions a hindrance.

On the other hand there is a belief his mere presence on the pitch lifts his team-mates. It is painted as if the likes of Alfredo Morelos and Daniel Candeias are fretting over the player’s inclusion. His experience cannot be questioned as a benefit. He lifts his own performance in such games.

But playing him as a Number 10 would be naive of Graeme Murty when positional sense, which Miller often neglects, is important against the quality of opposition they are facing.

Can Rangers plug the gaps in their midfield?

Rangers, despite improvements under Murty, still have a soft centre. Well, not so much soft. Sometimes it is just not there.

The team lack a midfield partnership, a unit who move around the pitch in unison offering balance. Rangers midfielders can be too individualistic in their pressing, which should be more of a collective issue.

They ‘exit’ their area to close down opponents without any back-up. That makes it easier for opposition teams to play around an apparent press with one-twos or around the corner passes.

Rather than play the 4-2-3-1 which has been used more recently, Murty should flip the midfield triangle.

Having gone off against Dundee, if Ross McCrorie is fit he provide Rangers with a massive boost sitting at the base of the midfield, offering protection to Bruno Alves and Russell Martin, dropping between them if necessary.

McCrorie offers a balance, a structure, organisation. It would free up Greg Docherty to play his anarchy role and either Graham Dorrans or Sean Goss.

Time for Morelos

Rangers can lay down a marker ahead of next season with their performance, but more so with a result. Key to getting a positive outcome will be Morelos.

The Colombian has yet to score in the fixture; his miss in the most recent 3-2 defeat was one which could haunt a player, but he has vowed to score at Hampden.

It is the only aspect of his game which has been lacking of late. He has failed to score in eight games in 2018, but his goal return is still more than respectable.

What every Rangers fan and pundit should now realise is that he offers so much more to Rangers than just goals. His all-round game, his awareness, his link-play and selflessness outside the box is of a high standard.

Celtic defenders will have their concerns about facing him following the chasing he gave Dedryck Boyata at Ibrox and can expect similar on Sunday.

The 21-year-old needs to go into the game with a better temperament. He is prone to raging at the referee and complaining to team-mates. This doesn’t hamper his game but it perhaps affects his focus and the concentration required to be a deadly striker in front of goal.

If a chance comes his way he has to be in the right frame of mind and ready to take it.

Will Celtic deliver a landmark performance?

After such a fine 2016/17 season it is only natural that Celtic have not quite hit the heights of the previous campaign. One of the features lacking from this season is landmark results.

Last year there was a 3-0 win at Anderlecht in the Champions League, which followed a 5-0 thumping of Astana in the qualifiers.

Due to their domestic domination last season, an excellent performance this campaign is seen as good. Good is now merely decent. Expectations are higher.

The one league game which stands out is October’s obliteration of Aberdeen at Pittodrie, in a high quality, controlled performance.

With the league nearly wrapped up there are few opportunities left. What better time and place to prove their dominance than a Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden against a Rangers team who ran them close at Ibrox?

Can Rangers tame Tom Rogic?

Neither Rangers nor Aberdeen have managed to get to grips with the Australian creator. Of his last 18 goals for Celtic, six have come against those two sides.

He is a unique player in Scotland in that he blends awareness, intelligence and technique with strength. His physique is not the prototype for a Number 10, and it makes him an absolute pain to mark, to pin down, to thwart.

Get the ball into his feet in space and he will punish opponents. But give it to him in in tight spaces and he is still capable of conjuring up magic, by using his strength to hold off opponents and his feet to meander around legs to create space and more often than not find the back of the net with a powerful curling shot.

Teams have been relatively effective using a man-marking system to frustrate Kieran Tierney and Scott Sinclair. It may be the way to go against Rogic.

McCrorie could fulfill the role having displayed a level-headed and shrewd reading of the game from his spell as a defensive midfield role.

The Celtic conundrum: Dembele or Griffiths?

As per Dougie Wright, Celtic’s goalscoring output has dropped from around 2.8 goals per game to 1.9 goals per game.

There are a variety of reasons for such a drop, but consistency of selection - or lack of - has had a big bearing. Celtic have played 54 games but no striker has started more than half of those.

Moussa Dembele has started 24 times, Leigh Griffiths on 19 occasions and Odsonne Edouard has got the nod in 11 fixtures.

Griffiths, back from injury, netted the winner at Hamilton Accies on Sunday. It was his first goal since January and will give him a real boost ahead of Sunday’s encounter.

However, we’ve been down this road before: Dembele is a big game player. His record is much better in these matches. He thrives in high pressure encounters and brings his all-round A-game.

He uses his frame, his power and his pace to cause endless problems and often finds the net. It is these performances that push him towards the £20 million bracket and upwards.

But Griffiths and Edouard, even if named among the substitutes, can offer a potent threat. Last season, Griffiths came off the bench against Rangers in the Betfred Cup semi-final to turn the tide, setting up Dembele for a late winner.