THE agony of Seville will linger all summer for Rangers fans but Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s players need to park their pain for 90 minutes and focus on securing the Scottish Cup at Hampden this afternoon.
I backed Gers to lift the Europa League trophy on Thursday night and they came agonisingly close, with Ryan Kent missing a golden chance at the end of extra-time before Aaron Ramsey fluffed his penalty in the ensuing shoot-out.
Playing 120 minutes in the searing heat of Spain will have taken a heavy toll on the Ibrox squad but the key to today’s final is how they handle the psychological blow of missing their big chance for European glory.
Rangers found themselves in an identical situation back in 2008 when they had to face Queen of the South at Hampden just days after losing to Zenit St Petersburg in the UEFA Cup Final.
And the trauma of that Manchester defeat almost ended up costing them the Cup as Queens came from 2-0 down to level at Hampden before a Kris Boyd goal got Gers off the hook against the second-tier side.
The Hearts team they face at the National Stadium today are much stronger than that Doonhamers outfit and the Jambos will fancy their chances of lifting the Cup.
Plenty of punters down Gorgie way will have a flutter on their heroes, with Robbie Neilson’s men 13/5 to lift the trophy at McBookie and 17/4 for a win inside 90 minutes.
Those prices look tempting given the exertions Rangers went through on Wednesday night yet I’m wary of backing Hearts after they let me down in last week’s dress rehearsal in the Premiership.
I backed the Jambos for that one as van Bronckhorst rested pretty much his entire first team ahead of Seville and it looked good when Peter Haring grabbed the opener.
But a Gers side comprised of fringe players and kids from the B team battled back to win 3-1, showing that van Bronckhorst has plenty of talent in reserve.
That’s why Rangers are red-hot favourites to lift the Scottish Cup today at 2/7 with McBookie, although the price increases a little to 4/7 for a win in 90 minutes.
I’d be surprised if van Bronckhorst didn’t make plenty of changes and that could give Ramsey and Fashion Sakala the chance to make up for their embarrassment in Seville.
The high-profile loan signing of Ramsey from Juventus in January has turned into a disaster for Gers with the Welshman starting just a handful of games.
I was surprised van Bronckhorst left it until the last few minutes of extra-time before bringing him on against Eintracht Frankfurt.
That meant Ramsey hardly kicked the ball before being asked to take his penalty in the shoot-out so it was perhaps no great shock he ended up being the only player to miss.
Sakala suffered the ignominy of being a subbed substitute in Seville after an error-strewn display but he has looked dangerous in big domestic games, especially against Celtic in the semi-final.
His legs will be fresh after a bit-part role in midweek and the Zambian is 13/10 at Unibet for a Cup Final goal.
With Willie Collum the man in black we could see some yellows and reds, with that market offering perhaps the best prices.
I’m wary of backing Jon Lundstram for a card as I’ve been left incredibly frustrated the last two times I’ve done that.
Bobby Madden let him away with a series of bad fouls in the semi against Celtic then the Scouser somehow escaped a caution for a high boot early in the Euro final.
Lundstram is 11/4 with Bet365 for a card today but I’m more drawn to the 12/5 on offer for Jambos
right-back Nathaniel Atkinson to fall foul of the referee.
Rangers have won lots of penalties this term and a spot-kick being awarded pays 9/5 at McBookie.