Rangers and Aberdeen go head to head for first silverware of season

The Premiership sides clash at Hampden with a trophy on the line.

All eyes will be on the national stadium on Sunday afternoon as Aberdeen and Rangers meet in the first cup final of the season.

The Viaplay Cup trophy is at stake and both sides go into the showpiece occasion on the back of impressive wins in Europe.

Barry Robson’s Aberdeen defeated Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa Conference League and now aim to lift the League Cup for the first time since 2014.

Rangers won a Europa League thriller 3-2 against Real Betis in Seville to top their group and continue their strong run of results under new boss Philippe Clement. If his unbeaten start to life in Scotland stretches to 14 games then he will have a trophy to his name just months into the job.

The Ibrox side have seen off Morton, Livingston and Hearts to reach this stage, while Aberdeen dealt with the challenges of Stirling Albion and Hibs. Premiership matches between the two have brought plenty of goals but offer little indication about who might come out on top at Hampden.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – SEPTEMBER 30: Jamie McGrath celebrates after scoring to make it 2-0 Aberdeen during a cinch Premiership match between Rangers and Aberdeen at Ibrox Stadium, on September 30, 2023, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Sammy Turner / SNS Group)

Aberdeen won the first clash at Ibrox, goals from Stefan Gartenmann, Jamie McGrath and Jack McKenzie doing the damage in a 3-1 win that proved to be the result that brought about Michael Beale’s sacking.

At Pittodrie in late November the Dons looked to be on their way to another three points courtesy of Bojan Miovski’s first half goal but a late, late penalty from James Tavernier ensured a share of the points.

What the managers say

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – NOVEMBER 04: Aberdeen manager Barry Robson at Full Time during a Viaplay Cup semi-final match between Hibernian and Aberdeen at Hampden Park, on November 04, 2023, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Aberdeen boss Barry Robson was part of the 2014 team and has another winners’ medal from his time at Celtic and he has impressed on the players the importance of the occasion and taking their chances.

He said: “I said to the players after the European campaign, when you’ve long-retired and you sit and think back, it’s the European games and the cup finals you’ll remember, so just make sure you give everything on the day and try to be the best version of yourself on the pitch.

“We managed to finish third (last season), we played in the group stages in Europe and winning a cup is something we really want to do.

“I just want to see the players and the fans and everyone at the club being happy at winning a cup.”

Aberdeen are the underdogs but Robson says his side will go in with the attitude that they can win.

“We should never fear them, but we massively respect Rangers,” he said. “They’re a huge football club with some really good players.

“But we don’t fear anything and we don’t fear anyone.”

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – NOVEMBER 05: Rangers Manager Philippe Clement during a Viaplay Cup semi-final match between Heart of Midlothian and Rangers at Hampden Park, on November 05, 2023, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Rangers boss Philippe Clement shrugged off the value an early trophy would bring him but said victory would go a long way to changing the story of Rangers’ season so far.

“It is not about me,” Clement said. “That’s not so important.

“It is about the club and the players and they deserve to get appreciation.

“Winning trophies brings appreciations from outside and it can change perceptions. I have a read a lot of bad things about these players and this team and they can change all of that in one game.”

Team news

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND – DECEMBER 06: Rangers Todd Cantwell in action during a cinch Premiership match between Heart of Midlothian and Rangers at Tynecastle Park, on December 06, 2023, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Rangers will be without midfielder Jose Cifuentes, who is suspended after last week’s red card. Tom Lawrence, and Nico Raskin will be missing through injury, while striker Danilo is a long-term absentee.

Ryan Jack is battling for fitness but Ranegrs have been boosted by news that Todd Cantwell is likely to be available after missing the trip to Spain for personal reasons.

Aberdeen’s big concern is over the fitness of Bojan Miovski but Barry Robson was optimistic his top scorer will be fit. Jack MacKenzie has been out with a hamstring injury but the rest of the squad is ready for the final.

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