Rangers vs StranraerScottish Cup, KO: 19:45 Jan 17, 2020, Ibrox
RANGERS headed into the winter break on the high of an Old Firm win and the feelgood factor should continue with a thumping victory in their first game back as Stranraer come calling in the Scottish Cup.
The minnows prop up League One after a horror run that has seen them fail to record a win since November. Stranraer's last six games have seen them chalk up four defeats and two draws so it would be the mother of all shocks if they emerged from Ibrox with anything.
Steven Gerrard's men were flying before the Premiership sabbatical, losing just one of their last 18 games in all competitions. Even that single defeat was a match they should have won, with Celtic winning 1-0 in the League Cup Final thanks to the heroics of Fraser Forster and some wasteful Alfredo Morelos finishing.
The Colombian was a sinner again in the last derby, picking up a last-gasp red card that brought up one of my tips that day. But that was the only disappointment for Rangers as they won at Celtic Park for the first time in nine years to put them in the box seat in the title race.
The Premiership crown is the prize everyone at Ibrox craves this season but they will be taking the Scottish Cup just as seriously as they look to win their first major honour since the 2012 financial implosion.
How the bookies view it
This is the classic David v Goliath cup tie and it's reflected in the odds, with Stranraer a whopping 100/1 with Betway and even the draw as big as 25/1 with Coral.
Rangers are a best 1/20 with Betfair so you have to get a bit creative. Backing Gerrard's side to be winning at half-time and full-time increases the odds to 1/4 with Paddy Power which is decent value for an accumulator while a Rangers win to nil is even better at 8/11 with Boylesports.
The handicap market is the best place to look and Rangers -3 catches the eye at 8/13 with Sportingbet while Rangers -4 is 13/10 with the same firm.
Head to head
There have been a few clashes between these sides in recent seasons, with Rangers making their way back up the leagues. But the most recent came in the League Cup in 2016 with the Ibrox side winning 3-0 at home.
Stranraer can take some hope from the 1-1 draw they claimed at Ibrox in League One back in 2013 (below) but that's the only time they have avoided defeat in eight encounters with Rangers dating back to 1948.
With Rangers transformed under Gerrard, this could be more like the two cup ties battled out in the late 1980s and early 90s, matches which the Ibrox side won 5-0 and 8-0.
Players to watch
With Morelos suspended, Jermain Defoe should lead the line but the Englishman is too short at 2/7 with McBookie in the anytime scorer market. Instead, back him for two or more goals, which is 11/8 with the same firm.
I fancied skipper James Tavernier at 11/8 with McBookie for anytime scorer but the full-back is suffering with a virus and has been ruled out for two or three weeks which is a blow as his form has been excellent.
I don't expect Stranraer to get a goal but it would be some story if Ryan Stevenson got on the scoresheet. The former Hearts playmaker has come out of retirement after depression took him to some dark places and it would be incredible if he scored here, which is priced at 9/2 with McBookie.
Anything else catch the eye?
Sky Bet are offering 15/8 on Rangers scoring in the first 10 minutes which could be worth a punt. I fancy Gerrard's side to come flying out the traps so backing over 2.5 goals in the first half also appeals at 13/8 with Bet365.
This Scottish Cup match between Rangers and Stranraer will be played on Jan 17, 2020 and kick off at 19:45