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Celtic v Rangers: Brown backs Hoops' quality to see off Old Firm rivals again

Betfred Cup semi-final: Hampden Park, Sunday, 2.15pm

By Ronnie Esplin

Celtic skipper Scott Brown is not anticipating another thrashing of Rangers when the two sides meet in the Betfred Cup semi-final at Hampden Park on Sunday.

The Hoops thumped their Glasgow rivals 5-1 in their Ladbrokes Premiership encounter at Celtic Park in September.

Brendan Rodgers' side will go to Hampden Park four points clear of Aberdeen at the top of the table and unbeaten domestically, albeit they lost 2-0 at home to Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League on Wednesday night.

But Brown believes the Light Blues have improved since their last meeting and is expecting a closer contest.

"They have been more solid and have a more steady team as well, it hasn't been chopped and changed," said the midfielder.

"It will be a lot tighter. Everyone thinks it is going to be three, four, five nothing for us again because we scored five goals, but it is going to be a lot harder game.

"But again, we have the pace and quality to score a couple of goals.

"They will have watched us closely in the last couple of weeks knowing this game was coming up.

"They will play a bit differently. I don't think they will be as open as they were at Celtic Park, but we will have to see what team they put out and who fancies it more on the day."

Rangers will take encouragement from last season's William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final at the national stadium when they beat Celtic in a penalty shoot-out after a 2-2 draw.

However, Brown insists the difference at the Parkhead club since Rodgers took over from Ronny Deila in the summer is 'night and day'.

"We have brought in some great players and that has helped," he said. "We have pace all over the team.

"We have Moussa Dembele who is scoring goals as well, we have Griff (Leigh Griffiths) who scored 40 goals last season, so we are in a lot stronger place than what we were last season."

The former Hibernian player was still shrugging off the effects of the rather chastening defeat by Monchengladbach.

The result left Celtic with one point from a possible nine ahead of the return game in Germany in two weeks' time.

With Barcelona and Manchester City still to play - the Hoops' point came in a 3-3 draw with the English outfit at Celtic Park last month - qualifying even for the Europa League looks a tall order for the Parkhead side.

However, Brown remains confident of playing European football in the new year as he looks for the Scottish champions to bounce back against Rangers.

He said: "We don't like to have a lot of downs at Celtic and let's hope Sunday isn't.

"Games are coming thick and fast and that is a good thing, especially after a defeat.

"We need to get on with it now. We can't be too disappointed about last night. They are a great team with the way they played from the back to the strikers and the midfield movement was exceptional.

"We still have a chance of getting European football after Christmas, but it is going to be hard. We are going to need to dig deep and results to go our way."

Belfast Telegraph


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