Crunch semi-final clash for Rangers at Hampden

Rangers' manager Pedro Caixinha.
Rangers' manager Pedro Caixinha.

It’s League Cup Semi-Final weekend – and for Pedro Caixinha and Rangers the meeting with Motherwell at Hampden on Sunday afternoon represents as formidable a challenge as any in the competition.

Under Stephen Robinson’s leadership the Fir Park men have been in impressive form of late. Currently lying fourth in the Premiership with 16 points from nine games, they suffered defeat in their opening two League games only for a run of six unbeaten in the next seven to propel the Lanarkshire club into the upper echelons of the table.

Rangers have over the years enjoyed something of an Indian sign over ‘Well - notwithstanding the 2014-15 Premiership Play-Offs – most recently of course on the opening day of the current campaign when two Graham Dorrans goals secured a hard-fought win for the Light Blues by the odd goal in three.

The Light Blues will enjoy the support of the vast majority of the Hamden audience, which is expected to be close to capacity on Sunday afternoon.

Jak Alnwick will line up between the posts for the Ibrox men whilst Ryan Jack is available for this one, having missed last weekend’s impressive 3-0 win over Tommy Wright’s St. Johnstone at Perth. However, Jason Holt was an impressive replacement for Jack at McDiarmid Park – and it would be no surprise to see him retain his place in the starting line-up.

One player who will surely line up in the middle of the park is Carlos Pena, underlining the transformation in the Mexican International’s fortunes in recent weeks – notably his two-goal performance in Perth last Friday evening.

Another who has not found the target of late is leading Ibrox marksman Alfredo Morelos who has failed to find the net in his last four outings. It remains to be seen whether the pacy Morelos will make way for Eduardo Herrera, another South American import brought to these shores by the Rangers Manager who has yet to make the impact of his Colombian team-mate.

Meanwhile the saga surrounding Kenny Miller shows no sign of abating with his agent pouring oil on troubled waters. The experienced striker missed the St Johnstone game through a reported hamstring strain picked up in training – but doubts have been raised over his fitness or otherwise.

Rumours have circulated in recent weeks over Miller’s relationship with his boss – and it remains to be seen whether that relationship can be re-established. The player has been almost universally acknowledged as a consummate professional – but somewhere along the line there would appear to have been a breakdown in his relationship with the Portuguese manager.

This weekend’s semi-final may go some way to providing the answer to the question of Kenny Miller’s future – but equally the same could be said of Pedro Caixinha.

The Rangers manager left no doubt that he is fully aware of exactly what is at stake this weekend.

“It’s a semi-final and we are all looking forward to it. I just want my players to enjoy the occasion. We know what we need to do to win the game but we also know it’s not going to be easy - we are facing a tough opponent who are also on a good run at the moment.

“I believe it’s going to be a great game but our ambition is only to win.”