Three key individual battles which could decide Rangers v Celtic

HITC looks at three possible key match-ups when Scottish Championship leaders Rangers face Scottish Premiership leaders Celtic in the Scottish Cup.

As much as Celtic fans might hate to admit it, they have surely missed the buzz surrounding the build-up to an Old Firm clash with Rangers.

This Sunday will see both Glaswegian enemies square off at Hampden Park in a fascinating Scottish Cup semi-final which will show us just how far Rangers have come under Mark Warburton - and perhaps how far they can go next season on their return to Scotland's top flight.

It is just the second Old Firm meeting between the sides since 2012 - Celtic winning the last one 2-0 in a Scottish League Cup semi 14 months ago - and here are three individual battles which could help decide the latest installment to one of the most hostile fixtures in world football.

Kenny Miller - Dedryck Boyata

This isn't Kenny Miller's first rodeo. In fact, it will be his 18th Old Firm derby on both sides of the divide, and despite his advancing years, the 36-year-old striker has more than enough experience to rattle Celtic for perhaps the last time in his lengthy career.

In contrast, Dedryck Boyata, a summer signing from Manchester City, might well get his first taste of an Old Firm clash - and Celtic fans may be slightly worried. The 25-year-old centre-back has looked shaky in far less important games this season, which does not inspire confidence that a mature, error-free display awaits him on Sunday.

He has, in truth, looked clumsy at times and such frailties do not bode well against a striker of Miller's vintage. The ex-Scotland hitman has a ruthless streak in him, as most Scottish defenders will testify to, and Boyata cannot afford to switch off even for a moment.

In the possible absence of top goalscorer Martyn Waghorn, Miller could be relied on to roll back the years and Boyata - if indeed he does play - will be among those vying to stop him.

James Tavernier - Kieran Tierney

At just 18, Celtic's Scottish starlet Kieran Tierney is undoubtedly one of the most exciting prospects to have emerged for club and country in recent years, but the left-back can expect the toughest 90 minutes of his fledgling career on Sunday against James Tavernier.

Right-back Tavernier, a summer signing from Wigan Athletic, has a quite ridiculous 13 goals and 17 assists in all competitions this season and Tierney will need to be excellent in order to prevent the 24-year-old from enhancing those impressive statistics.

Facing competent left-backs won't be a new experience for Tavernier, having played Championship football down South, but facing off against Scottish Championship opposition all season long is unlikely to have benefited him a great deal, so he can also expect a tricky afternoon this weekend.

Rob Kiernan - Leigh Griffiths

Technically, Leigh Griffiths is the most lethal striker in Scotland at the moment - and his 28 league goals, more than anybody else in the top four tiers of Scottish football, reflect that - but Rob Kiernan will love the challenge of joining the relatively exclusive group of centre-halves to have stopped Griffiths this season.

Griffiths has netted seven of the Hoops' last 14 Scottish Premiership goals and it is obvious that Rangers' hopes of reaching the final hinge on how effectively they deal with the in-form hitman, who has netted 37 times in all competitions.

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