Rangers supporters have been in high spirits in the Transfer Tavern this week after seeing their team ease past second tier side Falkirk 4-1 in the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup last weekend, thus setting them up perfectly for Sunday’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox.
Graeme Murty’s men got past Fraserburgh and Ayr United to reach the last eight of the competition, one they have won 33 times in their history, but not since 2009. Yet the Gers took another step towards the title on Sunday as a hat-trick from Jason Cummings as well as an own goal from Aaron Muirhead secured a routine victory for the Scottish giants, thus setting up a semi-final clash with Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic next month, whom they face in the Scottish Premiership on Sunday.
As such, there have been many thrilled Rangers fans in the Tavern in the last few days, several of whom are relishing Sunday’s clash with the league leaders at Ibrox, as victory for Murty’s side would move them to just three points behind Rodgers’ men at the summit of the division.
However, it looks like the Light Blues may have to do it without defender Russell Martin, who has reportedly suffered a back problem in training and as such is a huge doubt for the visit of Celtic on Sunday.
Nevertheless, while some of our resident Rangers fans are slightly concerned given Martin’s efforts in recent weeks, many are hoping and indeed fully expecting experienced campaigner Bruno Alves to step up when likely called upon by Murty on Sunday.
Ultimately, there’s little doubting the impact Martin has had since making the loan move from Norwich City in January, with the 32-year-old starting each of Rangers’ last seven Scottish Premiership matches to underline his status as one of Murty’s first-choice centre-backs.
And while losing him will be a blow, it will certainly be softened by Alves, as the 36-year-old is a vastly experienced defender and one that remains hugely adept at this level.
And it’s that experience, especially in a game of this magnitude and given the young David Bates likely to be alongside him, which will be pivotal to Rangers’ hopes on Sunday – remember, Alves was part of the Portugal team that won Euro 2016 less than two years ago.
Yes, he maybe hasn’t been at his best since making the move to Ibrox back in the summer, but it’s games like these in which experience counts for a lot – his last league start came against Celtic in the Old Firm derby back in December, and while injuries haven’t helped his cause since then, that itself underlines the value of experience on such an occasion.
So while Martin’s expected absence is a setback for the Light Blues, £450,000-rated Alves (as per Transfermarkt) is a fine deputy for the 32-year-old on Sunday, and simply must use every ounce of his experience to step up and make a telling difference for Murty’s side this weekend.
Rangers fans… what do you think? Let us know!