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2023 Scottish League Cup Preview: Rangers look to dethrone Celtic

2023 Scottish League Cup Preview: Rangers look to dethrone Celtic

Sunday’s clash between Rangers and Celtic in the Scottish League Cup Final will not get the worldwide attention that the fixture deserves. But for 90 minutes, the two passionate fanbases that make up arguably the greatest rivalry in the sport will be glued to the exotic scenes inside Hampden Park as both sides battle for their first trophy of the season.

Celtic enter as the reigning League Cup champions, having won five of the previous six League Cup titles. However, Rangers have lifted the trophy more than any other club with 27 titles. Rangers are also looking to end a drought longer than a decade of League Cup failure, last taking the trophy in 2011.

Both sides met in the League Cup Final in 2019, with Neil Lennon leading 10-men Celtic to the title after Christopher Julien’s 60th-minute goal being the difference alongside goalkeeping heroics from Fraser Forster.

How to Watch

In the United States, the match will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network at 10 a.m. EST. Viewers in the United Kingdom can see the game on Viaplay Sports 1. Additionally, viewers outside the UK and Ireland can watch live with a subscription to Celtic TV or Rangers TV.

Pressure on Rangers

Having won only two major domestic trophies since the club’s liquidation over a decade ago, Rangers fans have taken notice of the lack of success. In last weekend’s league fixture against Livingston, Rangers supporters unveiled a banner that said, “two trophies in eleven years; uphold the standards that matter.”

During that time frame, St. Johnstone won as many trophies. On the other hand, Celtic have run rampant with 21 trophies between the league (10), Scottish League Cup (6) and Scottish Cup (5).

In response to the banner, Rangers manager Michael Beale responded: “Listen, out of the last four trophies that were handed out in Scotland, two were handed out to Rangers, no?”

To answer Beale’s question, the answer actually is no. However, Rangers have won two of the last five trophies handed out in Scotland. Rangers won the SPFL title in 2020-21 and the Scottish Cup in 2022.

There is no question that the pressure on Rangers is piling up this season with the lack of success in the league. Beale has deflected his side’s lack of success over the past decade, claiming that Celtic should be in the position they are in based on how much they have spent.

Injury News

Rangers have been pelted with injuries this season. That is no different for the League Cup Final on Sunday. American international Malik Tillman is an injury concern with a hamstring strain after missing last weekend’s clash and not featuring in training this week. Joining the Bayern Munich loanee from the stands could also be Ryan Jack, Scott Arfield and John Lundstram.

Celtic are set to be as close to 100 percent as one could expect at this point in the season. David Turnbull and Aaron Mooy, arguably the best player in the country since the World Cup, are expected back after missing last weekend’s match through injury.

Road to the Final

For the Rangers, their road to the League Cup Final allowed them to never leave Glasgow. It started at Ibrox in late August with a 3-1 win over Queen of the South. That was followed by a narrow 1-0 quarterfinal win over Dundee also at home in October. Rangers had their League Cup Final ticket stamped on Jan. 15 when they squeezed past Aberdeen 2-1 in a match that required extra time at Hampden Park.

Celtic’s road to the final began when they cruised to a 4-1 victory away to Ross County in the second round. That was followed by a 4-0 quarterfinal win at Fir Park and a 2-0 semifinal win at Hampden over Kilmarnock.

In the leadup to Sunday’s kickoff, both managers sat beside each other at one of the more awkward press conferences anyone will ever witness.

Both sides enter the contest in good form having won each of the last nine matches in all competitions. The last time either side dropped points was on Jan. 2 when Celtic rescued a late draw against Rangers in the league at Ibrox.

Otherwise, it has been Celtic’s season. The Hoops hold a nine-point advantage in the league standings and won the first meeting with Ranger of the season 4-0 at Celtic Park in September. A Celtic win on Sunday would keep their treble dreams well and truly alive.

***

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