RANGERS will give their chances of winning the Scottish title for the first time in three years a major fillip at Ibrox on Sunday afternoon if they defeat current league leaders Celtic.

A win would send Philippe Clement’s team, who still have a game in hand to play against Dundee at Dens Park, two points clear at the top of the cinch Premiership table.

But the Glasgow club have very much been second best in their two encounters with their city rivals so far in the 2023/24 campaign – they lost 1-0 at home in September and 2-1 away in December.

How can they put those results behind them and give their fans an improved performance as well as a momentous triumph to cheer? Here are five things they must do to come out on top. 

Win the midfield battle

It is fair to say that Celtic have very much had the upper hand on Rangers in the middle of the park in the two Old Firm games which have taken place this season.

The Ibrox club have proved unable to contain Parkhead captain Callum McGregor in the past eight months.

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They will have to do better, far, far better, in that crucial area if they are to prevail on Sunday.

The fact that McGregor, who Rodgers expects to be fit and available for selection, has not played since the end of February due to an achilles issue may help them. How will Reo Hatate, who played his first club game in nearly three months against Livingston at Almondvale on Sunday, fare too? They are perhaps getting their opponents at a good time.

Glasgow Times: Still, John Lundstram and Mohamed Diomande, who have formed a potent partnership since play resumed after the winter break, will need to be on their games.

Keep the crowd onside

Having every single person in the 50,000-strong crowd cheering them on will give Rangers a distinct advantage over Celtic on Sunday. 

Rodgers’ men will receive a hostile welcome when they emerge from the tunnel before kick-off and will be doing well to maintain their composure in what is sure to be an intimidating atmosphere thereafter.

That said, if the visitors can take the lead or if they can prevent their opponents from edging in front, then the Bears will not be slow to let James Tavernier and his team mates know what they think of them.

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The anger in the stands as Rangers were being beaten 1-0 at home in September was unprecedented and did nothing to help their attempts to stage a comeback.  

Bury their chances

Rangers were by no means completely outplayed by Celtic in their previous encounter at the end of last year. Todd Cantwell, Ross McCausland and most memorably Cyriel Dessers all had decent opportunities to score from open play. They failed, however, to convert any of them.

The stunning long-range free-kick which Tavernier whipped in with two minutes remaining in that clash is the only time they have netted in the two derby games this term. They must be more clinical in attack this time around to pick up three points.

Scoring goals has not been an issue for Rangers since the last Old Firm match – they have plundered 29 in their last 11 league outings. But they have to prove they hit the target when the heat is well and truly on. To date this term, they have been found wanting.  

Hope Yilmaz is fit

When Clement replaced Borna Barisic with Ross McCausland at Ibrox last Saturday he moved Dujon Sterling, who had just come on for Scott Wright, to left back.

It was probably done to give McCausland, who was sidelined for a spell after suffering a knock in the Scottish Cup win over Hibernian at Easter Road last month, some much-needed minutes.

Could, though, the Rangers manager be considering giving Sterling a start in defence? The utility man has performed well for him wherever he has been deployed this term. He played against Celtic at full-back in the opening Old Firm game of the season too. Watch this space.

Glasgow Times: Barisic is, of course, a veteran of numerous derbies. But he has not featured much of late and when he has got on he has lacked a little of his old sparkle going forward. Defensively, he has not always convinced against the reigning Scottish champions.

If Ridvan Yilmaz, who was excellent at Parkhead in December and who has been one of Clement’s best performers in recent months, recovers from the injury which he picked up when he was away with Turkey during the international break and takes his place in the starting line-up it will increase the hosts’ chances of winning no end.

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January signing Nicolas Kuhn has been growing in influence for Celtic in recent weeks and everyone in this country has seen what his fellow wide man Daizen Maeda is capable of on his day. How the Rangers full-backs play, then, will be important.

Starve Furuhashi of service

The Japanese striker has not quite reached the levels he attained in his first two seasons in Scotland in the 2023/24 campaign. He has, however, still managed to pitch in with 15 goals. And he appears, after a spell warming the bench, to have got his mojo back.

Rangers will have to nullify the threat which the £4.5m forward, who has found the net on no fewer than seven occasions in his last seven appearances against them, poses in the final third to come out on top.