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Should Joe Garner start for Rangers vs Celtic? Tavernier in midfield? The team Caixinha should choose

We took a look at what team should be starting the cup semi-final at the weekend.

Celtic v Rangers - Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

It's the first of two back-to-back Old Firm games, and this first one is the most important, the Scottish Cup Semi-Final. Celtic will be heavy favourites, but have a woeful record against us at Hampden and we'll be high on scudding Aberdeen 3-0 and getting a point from Parkhead in the last visit.

Celtic, meanwhile, have taken their foot off the gas somewhat and have been going through the motions after romping to an early title win. That's likely to change here, however - there's silverware up for grabs and it's against us.

Pedro Caixinha has a few selection dilemmas ahead of the game, so we go through and take a look at the relative merits of each of the decisions he'll have to make. Rangers might still be rank outsiders, but getting the team right is going to go a long way to giving us a better chance of winning. If you're betting on the game at the weekend, make sure you get the right deal - check out the SBR rating guide of betting sites.


Celtic v Rangers - Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

CH: Fod the Prod to start in goal, of course. Pedro Caixinha will probably have his hand forced here - he said we're going to carry out fitness tests tomorrow, so there's a possibility Clint Hill and Rob Kiernan could be available, or even Lee Wallace if he makes a miraculous recovery. Yet even if they were all fit, I don't think I'd start any of them. David Bates and Myles Beerman have both been very good since coming in and haven't let in a single goal. They'll be there to start on merit and deserve the chance.

JB: Fod picks himself really. Alnwick has come in and been the absolute back-up keeper Gilks wasn't happy at being. With three clean sheets in three games, it's hard to argue for change in the back four; even if Hill or Kiernan are passed fit. Bates hasn't exactly set the world alight in the U20s but he's done what's required in the first team and the manager showing that trust in him will go a long way to help bring the best out in him. Beerman has been a revelation since coming in (as anyone who has followed out U20s coverage will have maybe anticipated) and the Maltese left-back has made the position his own in the last few weeks.


Rangers v Celtic - Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

JB: The midfield three have been much more settled in recent weeks and I'd expect that to continue going into Sunday's semi. Jon Toral and Jason Holt have really clicked alongside each other in the deeper midfield roles; Holt has looked a totally different player to the one who looked bereft of confidence under Mark Warburton. The ex-Hearts midfielder has really found his stride alongside Toral and, if they perform as they have in recent games, will be key to Caixinha's attempt at leading his side to a Cup final at the first attempt since arriving in Glasgow last month. Ahead of them, loanee Emerson Hyndman should take up the 'number 10' role and link the midfield and attack with his quick feet and fantastic eye for a pass. Despite not carrying on is early goal-scoring form, the young American has immediately became a fan favourite at Ibrox and will pose a real threat to Celtic's defence.

CH: I'm inclined to agree - the form of the midfield three means they pretty much pick themselves. If there was one likely to drop out, it would probably be Emerson Hyndman, although even that's not likely. But if Caixinha really wants to fit Joe Garner and Kenny Miller in the same team with pace on the wings, he might spring a surprise. Overall though, I think it's hard to see anything other than the usual three.


Rangers v Celtic - Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

CH: I suppose this is where the real decisions come in. Barrie McKay said that Caixinha instructed him to make more runs behind rather than coming short to receive the ball, and while I've long said he's a better playmaker than winger, he does well against slow fullbacks like Mikael Lustig. The problem is that he's short of form, but I'd still probably give him a start but be ready to hook him for Joe Dodoo when necessary.

Then, there's who to start up front. Joe Garner is a huge risk in a game like this but also potentially a very good asset in holding the ball up. I'm far from his biggest fan, but given how poor Waghorn has been in front of goal, I'd be inclined to get Garner trying to dominate Sviatchenko physically, while Miller plays on the right, exploiting Kieran Tierney's positional weakness when being asked to tuck inside. Dodoo can be a decent option coming off the bench on either flank, too.

JB: It's hard to disagree here but I can see a wee surprise being sprung with Waghorn, Garner and Miller all starting. McKay has blown hot and cold recently his half-time substitution last weekend for Joe Dodoo suggests that Caixinha can see he is out of form. Although Dodoo replaced him then, I have a feeling Miller will drop out wide with Garner through the middle if only just to try noise up Celtic's central defenders (and probably Scott Brown too). Dodoo and McKay being on the bench would give an extra option should Caixinha feel the need to change it as they game goes on and players start to tire. There's also the potential for a curveball in the shape of Harry Forrester but his recent lack of any game time will likely rule that out.

CH: There is one other option, too - James Tavernier at right midfield, and Lee Hodson at right-back, like Graeme Murty did at Parkhead.

JB: It would almost certainly mean a recall for Hodson, who hasn't exactly put in stellar performances so far, but it worked a treat last time out against Celtic although it might just be something they are expecting this time round.

CH: I'm really in two minds about this. Hodson isn't very good, and I'm not sure Tavernier, as good as he is going forward, is the type of player to cause problems for Kieran Tierney. That said, shackling Scott Sinclair stops a huge amount of Celtic's threat and at a neutral ground we might see it. Honestly, I'd be completely happy if we did or didn't. The fact we don't have anyone in stellar form to play on the wings might just make this decision a bit easier to justify, too.