Rangers v Hibs: Five key factors

Hibs players celebrate during their 3-1 win over Rangers in September. Pic: David Lamb

Hibs players celebrate during their 3-1 win over Rangers in September. Pic: David Lamb

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We look at five key areas that could decide Rangers v Hibs tonight:

• Hibs’ plethora of options

Alan Stubbs spoke earlier in the week about how he’s transformed the Hibs squad from threadbare to thorough and he’s practically got every player in his pool at his disposal tonight. Only striker Farid El Alagui is likely to miss out as he’s only just back in training after injury. In defence, it looks like Jordon Forster and Keith Watson will miss out, while in midfield Stubbs only has four slots for Scott Allan, Dylan McGeouch, Scott Robertson, Liam Craig, Fraser Fyvie, Sam Stanton and Danny Handling. In attack, Dominique Malonga’s return from the Cup of Africa Nations means Stubbs will have to pick between the Congolese, Jason Cummings, Martin Boyle and Franck Dja Djedje, who opened his Hibs account last weekend. Whatever line-up Stubbs goes for, he’ll have an incredibly strong subs bench and that will allow him to tinker with his team as the match progresses.

• Rangers’ absentees

Kenny McDowall’s squad isn’t in great shape right now. Only one of his Newcastle loan quintet is available. Haris Vuckic, as we now know, has to start, but Gael Birgirmana, Remi Streete, Kevin Mbabu and Shane Ferguson are all injured. Captain Lee McCulloch and goalkeeper Steve Simonsen are suspended, defender Bilel Mohsni is injured and crafty winger David Templeton is also out. Right-back Richard Foster, the only Rangers player who got close to pass marks when Hibs thumped the Bears 4-0 back in the December, is doubtful too. Rangers are down to the bare bones.

• Lee Robinson

With Cammy Bell out with a shoulder injury and the aforementioned Simonsen banned due to breaching SFA regulations on gambling, Rangers will have to field third-choice goalkeeper Lee Robinson. The 28-year-old started his career at Ibrox, but has since led a nomadic existence, pitching up at Morton, Raith, Kilmarnock, Queen of the South and IFK Osterund in Sweden. He’s played twice this season and hasn’t conceded a goal, but will be short on match-practice and isn’t a particularly commanding or big keeper. Hibs will look to put him under pressure right from the start and how he deals with the pressure will have a big bearing on proceedings.

• Scott Allan v Ian Black

When Hibs thrashed Rangers at Easter Road last time out, Allan was immense. It was one of the best individual performances put in by a Hibs player for many years. The 23-year-old ran the show and made such a fool out of Black, the ex-Hearts man was replaced midway through the first-half as he was likely to get sent off. Black subsequently lost his place in the Rangers XI, but due to a lack of options he is very likely to start tonight. Black will need to - legally - stop Allan from stamping his imprint on the match. He is Hibs’ creative fulcrum and most good things they do go through him.

• Jason Cummings

The Championship’s top goal-scorer has scored three times against Rangers this season, including a double on his last visit to Govan. However, he has not hit the net in Hibs’ past three matches and has had a frustrating time in front of goal, hitting the woodwork on several occasions and being denied by opposition goalkeepers. However, most good strikers don’t stay off the scoresheet for long and Cummings loves the big matches. He will be desperate to get off the mark again and as long as he keeps his cool when the inevitable chances come along, he could be the man to slay Rangers once more at Ibrox.