Thursday, February 3, 2011
One of the most storied rivalries in international soccer will add another chapter on Sunday when Maurice Edu's Rangers do battle with Celtic in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup at Hamden Park in Glasgow.
Edu will most likely start in the Rangers midfield for head coach Walter Smith who is expected to slot the US international as an attacker in his 4-2-3-1 formation.
It has been over 40 years since the two Old Firm teams met up this early in Scotland's domestic cup competition but that should not stop the usual fanfare that accompanies these high-profile matches.
Last season Rangers had the best of Celtic when they sported a 2-1-1 record against the Hoops including Edu's thrilling last-second goal which all but clinched the Scottish Premier League for the Light Blues in February.
This year the story has been different as Celtic have split the first two matches with Smith's team as they continue their fight for supremacy in the SPL.
Currently the Hoops own a five point edge in the standings, but Rangers have two games in hand.
Celtic have 34 Scottish Cups residing in their trophy room at Parkhead and are searching for their first one since 2007.
Yet Rangers would like nothing better than to equal Celtic's feat of 34 titles as there are currently 33 trophies down the road at Ibrox.
Edu and company are coming off of a hard-fought 1-0 win over Hearts that saw new arrival El Hadji Diouf make a favorable debut for the Light Blues.
Diouf had already endeared himself to Rangers supporters over seven years ago when he spat at a group of Celtic supporters during a 2003 UEFA Cup contest while the Senegalese was with Liverpool.
One should expect that half of Hamden Park will greet the speedy winger with plenty of whistles and boos on Sunday.
Probably one of the best pieces of news that Rangers fans received earlier this week was that defender Madjid Bougherra would not be leaving the club during the transfer window.
It had been reported that the Algerian might be on his way out to Arsenal, however nothing ever came to pass and Bougherra will take his usual spot in defense.
The right back played a spectacular game in the Wednesday victory over Hearts and will require a similar effort to keep Celtic's star strikers Gary Hooper and Anthony Stokes at bay.
The two forwards arrive into the match boasting 11 goals each in SPL play.
Smith will not be able to count on Lee McCulloch, Kirk Broadfoot and Andy Webster due to injury while Celtic coach Neil Lennon will be missing James Forrest, Daniel Majstorovic, Georgios Samaras and Glenn Loovens.