THE loophole in the SFA appeals process that has allowed Scott Brown to play in this afternoon’s Old Firm Scottish Cup semi-final is a major boost for Celtic.
And the sight of him standing in the tunnel five minutes before kick-off will be a crushing blow to Rangers.
It surprises me the SFA couldn’t get people to sit on a panel earlier in the week to review the tackle on Liam Boyce, and make a decision.
But that’s not Celtic’s fault and every other club would have used the process available to them.
I wrote on this page earlier this month that Brown has been the player of the year.
He has dictated the flow of Celtic’s play in the middle of the park, and has also inspired those around him.
His value to manager Brendan Rodgers and his Parkhead team-mates should not be underestimated.
Brown has the ability and football intelligence to control proceedings in today’s 90 minutes.
Yes, when it comes to scoring goals and being a matchwinner with a single strike, Moussa Dembele and Scott Sinclair may well be the ones to hog the headlines later tonight and tomorrow morning.
But if my former club do emerge with a place in next month’s Final, I’m sure Brown will have played a pivotal part.
That said, I do not think the outcome of the game is a foregone conclusion.
Far from it.
Rangers will have taken heart from getting a draw at Celtic Park last month, and they will also be delighted with the fact they have kept three clean sheets in a row in their most recent games against Partick Thistle, Aberdeen and Kilmarnock.
New manager Pedro Caixinha has clearly put an emphasis on being more compact as a team when it comes to defensive duties – but he also encourages players to express themselves.
He faces a massive decision in who to play in central defence between young David Bates, the rookie, or Clint Hill, the experienced campaigner.
Bates has played in those three clean-sheet games, while Hill has been injured and has only managed one or two training sessions in the past week.
But Hill has tremendous experience and also got the equaliser against Celtic in that 1-1 draw on March 12.
It’s a massive call for Caixinha, and perhaps the most important one he has faced so far in his short time as Rangers manager.
The bottom line, however, is that successful managers make a decision that goes their way and helps bring them the outcome they desire.
I’d be tempted to go for Hill.
Sure, young Bates has performed well, but this is a different game and the quality of striker in the opposition is of a different level.
However, it could be that Hill’s fitness is just not quite at the required level yet and that will leave Caixinha with no option.
One guy who will surely start the game is Kenny Miller.
He has been in good form, and his first goal against Aberdeen at Pittodrie was a finish of the highest quality.
I also like the look of Rangers’ two on-loan players, Emerson Hyndman and Jon Toral.
They have a calmness and intelligence in their game, and they linked well to score Rangers’ second goal against Partick Thistle last weekend.
I also think that Caixinha will tap into Graeme Murty for this game.
The interim manager came up with a tactical plan to get the draw at Parkhead, and he may well have little nuggets of information that the Portuguese will find extremely useful.
Despite the fact Rodgers and his players haven’t lost a domestic game all season, every team has a weakness.
It’s up to Caixinha to advise his players what that weakness might be and for them to carry out his instructions.
If Rangers score first, or defend well to keep Celtic out, that will give the Ibrox players extra legs at crucial times in the game.
It makes such a difference to your state of mind if you feel you have been rewarded for the good work put in during the first 30 minutes. It can reap the rewards later in the game.
I think, like nearly all Old Firm games, this will be a fascinating and thrilling encounter. There may even be extra time.
A victory for Celtic will keep them motoring towards the Treble and extend their unbeaten domestic run.
However, if Rangers can stop them in their tracks today, then Caixinha will be a hero in the eyes of their supporters.
It will also be a sign of progress, and will take them a step closer to securing a place in European football.
Considering where Rangers were three or four years ago, that would be a fine achievement.
However, they face the toughest of opponents today.
And that’s why I make Celtic clear favourites to win.
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