Pedro Caixinha has been preparing Rangers for a repeat of last season’s Scottish Cup semi-final penalty shoot-out by allowing his players to take only a single spot-kick in every training session this week.
The Portuguese coach revealed his unorthodox method as he prepares to take charge of his first Old Firm game in tomorrow’s last four showdown at Hampden.
At the same stage of the tournament last year, Rangers beat Celtic 5-4 on penalties after a 2-2 draw. It was the first ever competitive shoot-out between the clubs and Caixinha anticipates the possibility of a similarly dramatic conclusion this weekend.
Rather than put his squad through an extended session of taking penalties in training, the Rangers manager has rationed them to one a day in a bid to recreate some of the pressure they could face.
“All the players have the chance to score one penalty in each one of the sessions this week,” said Caixinha. “Normally, they would get two or three penalties, but this week just one. Normally, we want them to score two or three in a row. But this week is different. This week we have given them only one chance because that is the reality and we need to be ready for everything.
“The penalty takers are not only picked because of training. We already have our normal chosen penalty takers. Normally, in every match, you have three. The first option, the second option and the third option. You have it written on a piece of paper on the wall, the players know it and I will have the names in my notebook.
“When I reached the semi-finals of the Portuguese Cup as coach of Nacional in 2012, we went through every round on penalties and then lost on penalties to Sporting Lisbon in the semis.
“In Mexico, I won my first trophy with Santos Laguna on penalties. So we need to be ready for everything. We need to be ready for the opponent but you are more important than your opponent.”
Caixinha will be the third different coach to take charge of Rangers in Old Firm contests this season, following Mark Warburton and Graeme Murty, but tried to play down any personal significance.
“We have two points here,” he added. “It’s not only a derby, but it’s a semi-final. So things are a little bit different. Of course it is a big derby because we are playing Celtic, but it is just one semi-final.
“I’m not thinking about the match as my first Old Firm experience, but in order to prepare the team to be ready to face one of the strongest opponents they can. That’s undeniable, you cannot hide from that. The numbers are there. But now we are thinking about those 90 minutes on Sunday. Or if it’s 120 minutes, or if we need to go to penalties.”