Rangers travel to Easter Road to face Hibernian in the final game of the season. It’s a match where Hibernian would have to win by 6 goals to overtake the Ibrox side, and Rangers will be looking to pick up the points to hopefully overtake Aberdeen in second.
HIBERNIAN LEAGUE FORM
Hibs are 4th in the league on 66 points. They’ve lost only 7 matches this season, with 4 of those defeats coming at home. With 57 goals scored, they are third highest in the league in this regard. As 34 of those goals have been scored in home games, they’re second only to Celtic for providing their home fans with cause to celebrate.
LAST 5 LEAGUE RESULTS
Ross County (away), 1-1 draw
Celtic (home), 2-1 win
Kilmarnock (home), 5-3 win
Aberdeen (away), 0-0 draw
Hearts (away), 2-1 defeat
It’s fair to say Hibs are the form team in Scotland going into the final round of fixtures. They will be deflated by the defeat to Hearts in midweek, though. With them needing so many goals to snatch third, they’ll look to start at a high pace, but the game will become somewhat academic if they don’t feel like it’s possible.
LIKELY APPROACH AND TACTICS
When Rangers last faced Hibs, the Edinburgh side had a few injuries. It forced them to play a 3-5-2, and it worked well to begin with. Since then, they’ve stuck with that system. Hanlon, McGregor and Ambrose have been their preferred back 3, with Marciano in goals. In the wide areas, Stevenson and Boyle often start, but the latter came off injured on Wednesday. They’ve used McGinn and McGeouch behind Allan most often, with Kamberi and MacLaren up front. McGeouch may be unable to start, which has meant Whittaker has played in midfield. They may also prefer Barker in a free role rather than MacLaren.
The nature of the match and what is required makes predicting their team a little difficult. Lennon may be inclined to throw on a number of attacking players and just go for it. He may also change things given his obvious frustration with the way his team played against Hearts.
As noted above, Hibs are third highest in the league for goals scored. January signings Kamberi and MacLaren have 8 and 5 goals respectively, good numbers given limited games. They average just under 13 shots per match. John McGinn is highest in the squad currently for that, with most of his coming from outside the box.
In 1v1 dribbling situations, Hibs are second overall. They have a success rate of 71%, with players such as Boyle, Barker and McGinn particularly impressing. Boyle and Barker get a lot of touches in the opposing area for wide players, showing the attacking intent of the team.
Overall, Hibs have suffered more fouls than any other team in the league. Their style of play is to try and dominate the ball and run at opposing defenders. They average just over 51% possession and 349 passes over 90 minutes.
Hibs have conceded 41 goals this season. Whilst their average defensive duels of 63 per match is pretty low, their success rate is over 25%, almost as high as Celtic. McGinn is involved in most duels, but Ambrose and Hanlon have excellent success rates of over 30%. McGregor wins around 70% of aerial duels, making him their strongest defender in this regard.
Hibs have the highest percentage of shots blocked by their defenders in the league at 19.2%. They’ve only conceded 415 fouls, second lowest in the league. Despite this, McGinn is one of the highest for fouls conceded in the league, and has 15 yellow cards to have the dubious honour of most booked player.
For a team capable of playing a high tempo, Hibs have a rate of 8.2 passes against them per defensive action. In league terms, this puts them in the bottom half of this statistic, suggesting they don’t press teams into mistakes as well as others. It’s worth noting, though, that this number needs further investigation to allow for full context.
RANGERS TEAM NEWS
Rangers go into the match without the suspended McCrorie and Morelos. They will also be missing John, Dorrans, Foderingham, Windass and Jack through injury. Wallace and Miller are still suspended by the club. It’s something of a depleted squad, and given how Morelos and McCrorie turned the match around against Aberdeen on Tuesday, there are some huge influences unavailable.
PREDICTED STARTING LINE UP
Nicholl was ready to bring on Rossiter in midweek before McCrorie suggested he could play through the injury. It may be that they consider it a risk to start him, but he’s played well in recent Development Squad matches and will be itching to be involved. With one eye on the Aberdeen result in some ways, the team will need to ensure they start with some intensity. Hibs are bound to come out and play at a high tempo, but that can be killed by a good start from Rangers. If it becomes apparent early on that Hibs can’t get that six-goal win, they’re likely to lose a lot of motivation.
I think this match will start at a frenetic pace, but slow down and be something of a non-event towards the end. With so many players missing, Rangers will be unlikely to find their best level. However, they’ve shown some better attitude in the last couple of matches, so hopefully that will continue. I’m going for a 1-1 draw in this match.
What are your predictions for Sunday? Tweet us @abouttherangers with your thoughts!