Ange Postecoglou expects Rangers to be at their ‘absolute best’ for Celtic clash

Manager warns of ‘trap’ in thinking rivals will be fatigued from European exertions

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou is expecting nothing but the best from Rangers despite their European exertions.

Postecoglou warned of the dangers of thinking they might have an advantage over their Scottish Cup semi-final opponents after Rangers were taken to extra time by Braga on Thursday night.

They ultimately reached the Europa League semi-finals and Postecoglou cautioned that they could bounce into Sunday’s Hampden clash on their best form. Postecoglou, whose side beat St Johnstone 7-0 last Saturday in their most recent encounter, said: “If you fall into the trap of looking for some sort of advantage or some sort of weakness, then that’s where the pitfalls are. “We expect to play every opponent at their absolute best. We don’t think we are going to go out there on Sunday and because Rangers had a big game [on Thursday] night, that they are going to be something less than they can be.

“We will go out there preparing for them to be the best they can be as we have in every game against them or any other opposition to be fair. That means we prepare ourselves to be the best we can be.


“They will obviously be pretty buoyed after their result and they could play their best game of the year against us on Sunday. If we are not ready for that, then we are going to pay a price.

“We will be ready for a strong opponent and that means we will go in there also prepared to play our best game of the year.”

The former Australia head coach admits his team have benefited from free midweeks after going out of Europe against Bodo/Glimt in February – they have won six matches in a row since then. But he believes reinforcing his squad in January was the key to maintaining form which has seen them move six points clear of Rangers in the cinch Premiership.

“There won’t be a coach or a manager or a player who doesn’t appreciate having time and training with your players,” he said. “Particularly when you’ve got a new group of players, the more you can emphasise our parts of the game, it’s definitely helpful.

‘Really competitive’

“The first three-quarters of the season we had midweek games so that limits your ability to work on certain things.

“So we have tried to make maximum use of this last period when we haven’t had any midweek games. It doesn’t mean that we don’t work as hard. We are probably working harder than we normally do in training, specifically around our game.

“But also a big reason why we are in good form is we have got a real healthy squad.

“January was an important month for us, there is no doubt the four players we brought in have helped enormously in terms of being able to rotate players, keeping the intensity of training really high, keep the guys really competitive, the impact of subs, and not rushing back Dave Turnbull or Kyogo and other guys who have had injuries.

“I think they have been the key factors in terms of us playing our best football right now.”

Postecoglou could play Kyogo Furuhashi from the start after Giorgos Giakoumakis was all but ruled out of the semi-final.

Furuhashi made his comeback from a hamstring injury as a 74th-minute substitute in Celtic’s win over St Johnstone, after Giakoumakis went off early in the game with a minor injury in the same area.

The Greek striker is set to be Celtic’s only absentee.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst will assess his fatigued Rangers squad after their extra-time Europa League quarter-final win against Braga at Ibrox on Thursday. Croatia left-back Borna Barisic went off with cramp against the Portuguese side. Defender Filip Helander (foot), striker Alfredo Morelos (thigh) and attacker Ianis Hagi (knee) are out for the season.