WE’VE finally arrived at what will be Rangers’ biggest games of the season – the biggest since they launched their attempt to return to the top echelon of Scottish football three years ago.
It’s also Motherwell’s most important two matches of the campaign as they battle to stay in the Premiership and keep Rangers in the Championship for at least another season.
There’s already been a lot of debate on the site about the match and I’m no nearer to picking a winner. Rangers’ two play-off ties were settled by one goal and this two-legged final with Motherwell could be no different.
Stuart McCall’s side are 4-6 favourites with McBookie and BetVictor to win the tie while Motherwell are 11-10. It’s unusual for the top-flight side to be underdogs but that’s because they’re playing Rangers.
I don’t think there’s much between the sides but Motherwell need to beat stats that read no wins against Rangers for 11 years and none at Ibrox since 1997. Normally I’d read a lot into them but in this case they’re less relevant – as long as they don’t prey on the minds of the Lanarkshire side.
Many of those matches were when McCall was in charge at Fir Park and all but one came – a cup defeat when Motherwell simply didn’t turn up – against a top-flight side used to challenging for major honours.
Gers looked tired as they made it over the line against Hibs on Sunday while Well rested most of their players in the 0-0 draw against Partick Thistle.
McCall admitted his players were jaded and was relieved Hibs couldn’t force extra time. He gave his men a day off but his comments are worrying because they’ll need to be energised against a side whose fitness levels are not up for question.
A noisy crowd will need to be the Ibrox side’s 12th man and a home win pays 21-20 at Paddy Power. Well are 31-10 at McBookie while the draw pays 13-5 with the Scots firm and while I hate sitting on the fence that’s my shout in a tie so tough to call.
Scott McDonald famously scored Well’s goals that beat Celtic to give Gers the title in 2005. He is 9-2 with William Hill to score in an away win tonight and 3-1 at bet365 just to net. McDonald had to overturn a red card to play in the ties and will be the key to Well’s hopes and boss Ian Baraclough will also look for big performances from the likes of veterans Stephen Pearson and Stephen McManus as well as young forward Lee Erwin.
Kenny Miller stepped up to the plate with a fine goal for Rangers in their 2-0 first-leg win over Hibs but on-loan Newcastle man Haris Vuckic is the man Gers rely on. He hasn’t scored in the play-offs but was man of the match in the 2-0 win over Hibs. He is 9-4 with Ladbrokes to net at any time.
Brothers Nicky and Josh Law go head to head tonight and either to score pays 6-1 with William Hill.
I tipped no early goal in the Rangers-Hibs opener and I’m on that again. It’s likely to be tight and tense so take no goal in the first 30 minutes at 4-5 with Betway.
There were 12 bookings – five at Ibrox, seven at Easter Road – in the semi-final play-off and I expect plenty more tonight and on Sunday. I’ll search out some card prices but a sending off tonight pays 7-2 at William Hill.
No goal first 30mins
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