Barry Ferguson insists Rangers can use Scottish Cup semi-final with Celtic to send message ahead of Premiership return

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The former Gers captain believes the Scottish Championship leaders have got a great chance to confirm that they are on their way back to the top.

Barry Ferguson has insisted that the Scottish Cup semi-final is the perfect opportunity for Rangers to send a warning to Celtic that they are well on their way back to the top of the game, the Daily Record reports.

The Old Firm pair were drawn together after they both came through their quarter-finals in emphatic fashion, and having only met once since the Light Blues were demoted to the bottom division - with Celtic coming out on top on that occasion as they won 2-0 in the last four of last season's League Cup - Ferguson believes that the Hampden Park showdown between the pair will allow his former side to show just how far they have come since Mark Warburton took over in the summer.

"Much was said when St Johnstone came to town in September and won easily to knock them out of the League Cup. It showed them up as a team with a lot to learn before they could call themselves Premiership standard, apparently," he told the Record.

"Well now they have beaten Kilmarnock and blown away Dundee by four clear goals on their way into the hat for this mouth-watering draw. That shows the rapid progression that Rangers have made under Warburton and now this brings their biggest opportunity yet to really send a message that will make the rest of Scottish football - and, let's not underestimate this, Europe too - sit up and take notice.

"It's a golden chance to show that Rangers are back and ready to take the title fight to Celtic when they're back in the top flight next season."

While Celtic are in a similar position in the Scottish Premiership to the one they were in the last time these two sides met - as they sit a few points clear of Aberdeen - and thus, may still have other priorities by the time the semi-final rolls around, Rangers' league position is hugely different this time around, and may actually see the playing field levelled slightly.

When the Gers played their last game before the tie with the Hoops last season, they found themselves second in the Scottish Championship, 13 points adrift of leaders Hearts.

However, this term Warburton's men have been the ones to run away with the division. They currently sit 12 points clear of Falkirk and have played a game less, so may well have automatic-promotion secured by the time they meet their bitter rivals. 

And if the title is wrapped up by the time they face Celtic, Warburton's men will know that a victory over Ronny Deila's side will surely confirm that the Gers are getting closer to returning to battling at the summit of the Scottish game. 

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