Rangers v Hibs preview: McNulty’s importance | familiar foe returns for Rangers | who will start on the left?

Hibs go to Rangers on Sunday looking to make it eleven games undefeated in the Ladbrokes Premiership since Paul Heckingbottom’s arrival as manager.

Friday, 3rd May 2019, 6:29 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd May 2019, 6:50 pm

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This will likely be the sternest test he has faced in the league to this point with Steven Gerrard’s side going into the match off the back of a four-game winning streak.

With his side in good form despite the disappointment of letting a lead slip to Hearts in the recent Edinburgh derby, Heckingbottom is expected to largely keep the same team.

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Paul Heckingbottom speaks to the media prior to the trip to Ibrox. Picture: SNS

One change could conceivably come on the left side of midfield. Florian Kamberi was taken off at half-time in the derby and Heckingbottom has a decision of whether to stick with the Swiss striker in the unfamiliar role on the left flank. Stephane Omeonga deputised there once Vytkintas Slivka was introduced at Kamberi’s expense against Hearts, while Thomas Agyepong made his long-awaited return from injury and could be in contention.

Rangers team news

Rangers top goalscorer Alfredo Morelos is available again for Steven Gerrard’s side. The 29-goal Colombian was handed a four-match ban after elbowing Scott Brown in the 2-1 loss at Celtic on March 31. Midfielder Ryan Jack (throat infection) is a doubt while Gareth McAuley will not play again this season after injuring his hamstring. Graham Dorrans (knee) is still chasing fitness but Jamie Murphy (knee) will have to wait until next campaign for his own comeback.

Possible Rangers line-up

McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Katic, Halliday; Jack, Davis, Kamara; Kent, Defoe, Arfield. Subs from: Barisic, Flanagan, Worrall, McCrorie, Coulibaly, Candeias, Morelos, Lafferty, Grezda, Foderingham.

Hibs team news

Hibernian have close to a full squad for Sunday’s trip to Ibrox. Long-term absentees Martin Boyle and Ryan Porteous (both knee) will not feature again this season. The Easter Road squad are otherwise at full strength.

Possible Hibs line-up

Marciano; Gray, McGregor, Hanlon, Stevenson; Milligan, Mallan; Horgan, Slivka, Omeonga; McNulty. Subs from: Bartley, Kamberi, Shaw, Mackie, Allan, Murray, Bigirimana, Spector, Gauld, Whittaker, Agyepong, Johnson, Dabrowski.

Magic number

9 - Hibs have lost just once to the Glasgow side in the last nine matches between the two, which was a 2-1 reverse at Easter Road last season. There have also been four (consecutive) draws and four Hibs victories, including a little mentioned day in May 2016...

Key battle

Marc McNulty will need to get back to his best if Hibs are going to get something from this contest. He doesn’t necessarily have to rediscover his scoring form - he hasn’t found the back of the net since March 16 - he just has to lead the line effectively: linking play, holding the ball up, threatening down the channels. Without such a presence then it could be a long day for Hibs against a side who dominated them in the first half at Easter Road in the last battle between the sides. Rangers centre-backs Connor Goldson and Nikola Katic are in good form at the moment, but they’re far from infallible.

Referee

Bobby Madden has taken charge of four Hibs games this season with the Leith side coming out on top on three occasions. The referee oversaw the 3-0 win over Motherwell on the opening weekend, along with the 1-0 win at Hamilton that stopped the barren run between October and December. Hibs also defeated Raith Rovers in the last 16 of the Betfred Cup, though they lost 1-0 to Motherwell in Madden’s last match involving them. The whistler’s most recent interaction with Rangers was the ill-tempered Old Firm clash at Celtic Park where three players in Light Blue were sent off.

Odds

Rangers 42/100 Draw 18/5 Hibs 6/1

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