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Sir Kenny Dalglish: Rangers have a final in sight and they daren’t blow it

© Craig Williamson / SNS GroupScott Arfield celebrates his dramatic last-gasp winner at Pittodrie last month
Scott Arfield celebrates his dramatic last-gasp winner at Pittodrie last month

Rangers are clear favourites to beat Aberdeen this afternoon and rightly so.

However, the Dons will be no pushovers. In fact, I expect them to be better than they were in the SPFL game at Pittodrie last month when they lost 3-2.

Jim Goodwin’s men led right up until stoppage time when two late, late goals from Scott Arfield took the three points back to Ibrox.

Jim felt absolutely gutted at full-time and no wonder. His players would have felt the same.

They will try to use that dejection as extra motivation to see them into the League Cup Final next month.

But they are up against a Rangers side who have improved since then. Michael Beale is making things better, slowly but surely.

They drew 2-2 at home to Celtic and then followed that up with a convincing win at Dundee United last weekend.

Now, they have a Final in their sights and they daren’t blow it.

Hampden Park will be packed and Rangers know they are expected to beat the Dons. Their fans will demand it.

They lost at the same stage of this competition last season when Hibs defeated them.

It seems unlikely that they’ll lose this, but if they do, it will not be down to complacency. It will be down to the fact Aberdeen probably deserved it.

Rangers will be aware about how close they came to losing to the Dons in the League and the fact that Aberdeen had faced Celtic three days earlier would also have been a factor.

Ange Postecoglou’s men had possession for most of the game and pulled the Aberdeen players all over the place. It was a tough, tough 90 minutes.

Physically and mentally, that would have taken its toll.

Taking that into account, it’s maybe no surprise they conceded two late goals.

Credit to Rangers for not stopping and going to the wire. But Aberdeen will go into this game fresher than they were for the League clash last month.

There will also be plenty of interest in who Michael selects as his goalkeeper.

At the moment, he seems split between Allan McGregor and Jon McLaughlin.

Allan has rarely let Rangers down. I’ve praised him time after time on these pages. He has been outstanding. He is still a top quality keeper.

Jon has also been very sound. He, too, has rarely let the team down.

Maybe Michael wants to give Jon a run to see how he shapes up for next season and if he has what it takes to succeed Allan in the long term.

This could be an early fact-finding mission to see if he needs to bring in a No. 1 in the summer.

It’s an important decision, one of the toughest calls Michael will make at Rangers. I’ll be interested to see what he does.

Regardless of who gets the nod this afternoon, I expect Rangers to win, but it will be tight.

I also think it will be a cracking game down south when Tottenham host Arsenal in the North London derby.

The Gunners won 3-1 the last time the teams met in the League and it was comfortable.

I fancy them to win this afternoon but it will not be easy.

Antonio Conte’s men are usually very good and with Harry Kane in the team, you’d never rule them out of any 90 minutes.

But Arsenal look like a proper team right now, well drilled, organised and a real goal threat.

They are top of the Premiership and I think the title is theirs to throw away.

Mikel Arteta (inset) deserves a lot of credit. Last season they didn’t qualify for the Champion League and now they are favourites to win the League.

Mikel is clearly a very astute young manager and the club stood by him during some tough periods.

It has paid off and they are closing in on something special.

But Tottenham will be desperate to beat them. They cannot be ruled out, especially on their own patch.