5 talking points ahead of Scottish Cup final between Rangers and Hearts

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Rangers meet Hearts in the Scottish Cup final on Saturday.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the main talking points ahead of the Hampden showpiece.

Rangers’ Euro hangover

Rangers were beaten on penalties in the Europa League final
Rangers were beaten on penalties in the Europa League final (Andrew Milligan/PA).

Much will depend on how Rangers react, both physically and mentally, to their midweek exertions in the Europa League final against Eintracht Frankfurt. Playing 120 minutes in searing Seville heat is sure to have taken a toll on the limbs of Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s players. In addition, the sense of anguish at putting so much into the biggest game of their lives and coming away empty-handed is unlikely to have fully dissipated by kick-off. Hearts, who have had a full week’s rest, are entitled to feel they hold an immediate edge in terms of preparation.

Hearts’ fitness issues

Robbie Neilson
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson has had fitness issues to contend with (Steve Welsh/PA).

Despite having plenty time to focus, however, the Tynecastle side are not in prime condition physically. Robbie Neilson has had to deal with several fitness issues surrounding key players in recent weeks and months. All bar Beni Baningime are in contention to feature at Hampden, but it is fair to say the likes of Michael Smith, Cammy Devlin, Craig Halkett and John Souttar – all of whom would ordinarily expect to start – have not played enough football to be considered fully fit and up to speed.

Ibrox men have upper hand

Rangers celebrate in their recent league win over Hearts
Rangers celebrate in their recent league win over Hearts (Andrew Milligan/PA).

Rangers finished 28 points clear of Hearts in the cinch Premiership. In addition, they took 10 points from their four meetings with the Jambos over the course of the league campaign. Hearts’ solitary point against the Gers came courtesy of a late Craig Halkett equaliser at Ibrox in October. Just last weekend, Rangers sent out a weakened side for the final league game of the season at Tynecastle and the fringe men cruised to a 3-1 win. Hearts, for all their pre-match belief, must find a way to do something they have not managed all season if they are to land the Scottish Cup for the first time in a decade.

Gers aim to end drought

Although they won the Premiership last term, Rangers are still waiting to win their first major domestic knockout tournament since recovering from their financial meltdown a decade ago. The Ibrox club last won the League Cup in 2011, while they have not won the Scottish Cup since defeating Falkirk in the 2009 final. The closest they came to changing that was in 2016 when they lost 3-2 to Hibernian in the final. There is a feeling within the Rangers camp that the wait has gone on too long.

Memories of 98

Hearts will be hoping for a repeat of the last time the two teams met in a major final 24 years ago. In 1998, the Tynecastle side went into the Scottish Cup final on the back of finishing third in the league, while Rangers had finished second – the same as this season. In addition, as they are on this occasion, the Ibrox side went into the game against a backdrop of disappointment after seeing their hopes of a 10th title in a row dashed the previous week when Celtic pipped them. The Jambos scored in the first minute and went on to win 2-1. Current manager Neilson – a youth-team player at the time – and goalkeeper Craig Gordon, incidentally, were among those watching on from the crowd that day.

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