Nobody has taken a point off Rangers in the Scottish Championship so far. If Hibs are to haul themselves back into this title race, they’ll need to win all three on Sunday. David Hardie and Aidan Smith look at how that could happen.
Pressurising the back line
Mark Warburton is intent on having his side play the ball out from the back, encouraging goalkeeper Wes Foderingham to play it to one or other of his defenders rather than launching it long.
It’s fine when they are given time to do so but it will be up to Hibs to press forward, not to allow whoever is in possession time to dwell on the ball and pick his pass, to hurry his decision making and ensure his options to do so are limited.
Hibs do have plenty of legs in their midfield with the likes of John McGinn, Dylan McGeouch and Liam Henderson while up front Jason Cummings does a lot of chasing and harrying, something Alan Stubbs will no doubt be encouraging Dominique Malonga to copy.
Speed in attack
Hibs are unlikely to get much in the way of return if they throw high crosses into Rangers penalty area with both Rob Kiernan and Dominic Ball standing over six foot and at least a couple of inches taller than Cummings.
Malonga matches the central defenders for height but prefers the ball on the deck and that’s where, with his quick feet, and the pace and movement of Cummings is likely to discomfort both Kiernan and Ball.
But it will also be up to Hibs to move the ball quickly from back to front through a midfield which has plenty of legs to stretch the opposition and so, hopefully, open up those little gaps which the front two can exploit.
Keep a narrow shape in defence
Keeping it narrow may sound like an odd thing to suggest against a team blessed with a plethora of talent on the wings, with Lee Wallace and James Tavernier threatening from deep and Barrie McKay providing another useful out-ball on the left.
However, Rangers don’t score an awful lot of goals from headed cross balls. Instead the design is to pull defenders out of position with the movement of Martyn Waghorn as the centre-piece, along with every other attacker playing his role. Even Tavernier prefers drifting in centrally rather than hitting the by-line.
It’s a lot to cover, but if the Hibs full-backs and sitting midfielder(s) don’t get dragged out of position then it’ll congest the space and make it harder for Rangers to prize open holes to run through.
Hibs must score first
It seems vital. Admittedly they scored the first goal the last time Rangers visited Easter Road - in the Petrofac Cup curtain-raiser to the season - and still ended up losing, but in all the league games between the sides last season and both legs of the play-off, the team scoring first went on to win the game and it was the same story in the first league encounter of this campaign. Hibs need to believe they can win on Sunday and so do their fans; striking the first blow will give huge confidence to both.
Solve the James Tavernier issue
He’s become an issue for opposition teams, hasn’t he? The cavalier full-back who, according to myth, had never scored a goal of all sort, not even as a boy playing on his own in his bedroom, and now can’t stop banging them in for fun in the Scottish Championship. No one knew who he was when he lined up that free-kick for his debut strike, against Hibs in the Petrofac. His next against the Easter Road men in the first league meeting showed he can strike a dead ball from an outrageous angle. Hibs will need to be wary of Tavernier’s team-mates taking a tumble to win him another opportunity, as Nicky Law did against Falkirk recently.