Hibs boss: 'Let's do to Rangers what they did to Benfica ...'

Myziane Maolida, seen competing for the ball with Nicolas Raskin and John Souttar the last time Rangers visited Easter Road, could be key to the home team's chances tomorrow.Myziane Maolida, seen competing for the ball with Nicolas Raskin and John Souttar the last time Rangers visited Easter Road, could be key to the home team's chances tomorrow.
Myziane Maolida, seen competing for the ball with Nicolas Raskin and John Souttar the last time Rangers visited Easter Road, could be key to the home team's chances tomorrow.
Monty looking to bridge financial gulf - and can't understand why Clement has been irked by Hibs chat

Hibs boss Nick Montgomery believes Rangers going toe-to-toe with Benfica gives his team inspiration ahead of tomorrow’s Scottish Cup quarterfinal – because it shows that even a huge financial advantage is no guarantee of success. But the Yorkshireman admits he’s baffled by Light Blues counterpart Philippe Clement taking offence at recent comments from within the Hibs camp.

So far this season, Rangers have won home and away against Hibs in the Scottish Premiership, scoring seven and conceding none. Yet Clement appears to have been irked by Monty and his players expressing confidence ahead of tomorrow’s knock-out tie at Easter Road, the Belgian saying: “I have read that they were really unlucky in their last two games against us, I read. So they have a lot of belief, clearly.”

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Monty was genuinely bemused by those comments, saying yesterday: “I don’t think I ever said we were unlucky in either game so I’m not sure where Philippe’s got that from. We deserved to get beaten both times because we didn’t put our chances away and we got punished because they’ve got quality players - and we made mistakes.

“Maybe he’s just trying to take pressure off himself. It’s a big game. We know it’s a big game.

“They just went to a team with ten times their transfer market value, and they’ve got ten times our transfer market value - so that’s a pressure that Philippe has to cope with. He’s coped with it really well since arriving in Scottish football. He’s got Rangers playing very direct football, very aggressive, and I think they’ve had a fantastic run.

“So I definitely didn’t say we were unlucky! We didn’t deserve to win either game, so I don’t know where that’s come from.”

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Insisting that Rangers pushing Benfica all the way in Thursday night’s 2-2 draw, putting the Ibrox side in a strong position in their Europa League last-16 tie, had shown that his own team could do the same to the Scottish Premiership leaders, Monty said: “Yeah, for sure. If you look at Benfica, they’re in a bad place at the minute. They lost 5-0 to Porto and they lost to Sporting so you could see the pressure on them on Thursday night. 

“They’re still a quality team and I thought Rangers defended really well - resolute, and so many blocks in the 18-yard box and it was a fantastic result for them. So it shows that you can get results (against teams with far bigger budgets).”

Asked if the gulf between Rangers and Hibs compared to the financial disadvantage faced by former club Central Coast Mariners, who won the A-League title under Montgomery despite having the smallest budget in the competition, the Hibs boss said: “No, you cannot compare. I don’t think you can compare most leagues in the world (to Scotland).

“But it is a great opportunity for players to go up against Old Firm players who are Champions League and Europa League players and have come from bigger clubs and leagues. It is always exciting to come up against them.

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“When you play Rangers or Celtic then you are playing teams with huge budgets and huge market values compared to yourself. There is always that mentality from the fans and people who watch the game.

“But, as a player, you have to see it as an opportunity to be the underdog and to succeed. That is a pressure that the likes of Celtic and Rangers have to deal with every week, home and away and in every competition because the expectation is to win the games. 

“The managers of both those clubs are there because they can handle that pressure and they need players who can handle that as well. Being the underdog, which is most teams against the Old Firm, it is still a football match, 90 minutes. And you know if you perform then you have every chance of coming out on top.”

Of the half-dozen new faces to have joined in the January window, on-loan Bournemouth playmaker Emiliano Marcondes is already enhancing his reputation, the Danish No. 10 – who had been out of action for eight months through injury – improving with every performance, Montgomery admitting: “Emi’s really important. I brought him in because I know his qualities as a player.

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“He’s a really good influence, a top professional, and I think he’s lifted the group. This is a player who has played in big games, scored the winning goal for Brentford to get them promoted to the Premier League and he’s had a good career.

“He’s still only 28. I think I read somewhere that footballers peak around 27-32; maybe I’ve got that wrong, but right now he’s in the peak of his career and enjoying himself. He’s a player with real quality and has a lot more to give as well because you can’t expect anyone to be out for nine months and three or four weeks later be on top form. But he’s done more than enough to show what a top-quality player he is.

“The biggest change we’ve had in the last four or five weeks is that we now have a squad of players where I can look at the bench and know that I’ve got attacking players who can come on and have an impact. That’s something that’s really important in modern-day football with the intensity the game is played at.”

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