Big Game - Big Outcome

14 February 2010 10:35
Today could see Hibs show they are the real deal for this year's third force or Rangers could underline why they are top of the table. Rangers entertain third placed Hibs today and manager Walter Smith has a full squad to choose from. The Ibrox manager has been forced to deal with injury problems for several weeks but now has all his key players back in action. DaMarcus Beasley was out for the midweek draw at Motherwell but could be in the squad now that he has recovered from a thigh injury. Smith has refused to rule Hibs out of the title race just yet and has been impressed by the staying power of Hibs so far this season when they have been known to falter after making a good start. Hibs have a game in hand over the first two in the league and if results go their way the gaps could be cut from 12 points and four. Smith said: "I thought Hibs had a good squad of players last season and they have added some good players to that and have played very well this season. They have shown they can handle the league through the months and, when they get to February and they are in the position they are in, they have every right to think that they've got a chance of going for the championship as well. They've got a good balance in their team, they have good goalscorers and their defensive record has been excellent. I think if you take those two things, it doesn't surprise me that they've managed the consistency. We managed to win 4-1 in the game in December and psychologically I felt that would be a big thing. But, credit to Hibs, they've come back from that and got themselves into a position where, along with Rangers and Celtic, they are vying for the championship. They have got as good goalscorers there in (Anthony) Stokes and (Derek) Riordan as any team in the league. They have done exceptionally well and that, in many ways, is what makes them dangerous. But they've got a good defensive record as well, their organisational aspect and defending is very good, and that means you are going to have trouble getting goals against them. We got four against them and it was an exceptional level of finishing from our own point of view. For us, that was a big result and hopefully we can create the same number of opportunities on Sunday as we did in that game." Easter Road manager John Hughes is looking forward to the challenge of taking on table-toppers Rangers today at Ibrox. He was never one to shirk a challenge in his playing days and he has not changed his philosophy since donning the managerial suit and tie. He expects "one or two knocks" from Wednesday night's 2-2 draw with Aberdeen to be shaken off in time for the trip to Ibrox as nobody wants to miss this one. However he must decide whether to stick with the side that started the game and fell 2-0 behind at Easter Road. Hughes is not worried about his side taking on a full-strength Rangers team - even though he knows the potential consequences. Hughes is full of praise for the way his opposite number Smith has handled the club's injury and financial problems to stay at the top the SPL. But he insists Hibs should have nothing to fear at Ibrox. He said: "You have to go there guarded and respectful of Glasgow Rangers. If you look at the job Walter's done - when was the last time they brought a new player to the club? Working under those restraints, he's taken the title back from Celtic and he's sitting eight points clear in the SPL and they're still in the two cup competitions. Not bad, is it, that? And that's what we're up against. Steve Davis has to be up there for player of the year; big Boydy - lo and behold - out with a double hernia, he comes back just when it's coming round about time to play Hibs. But it excites me, bring it on, give me everything you've got, because it's a massive test." Editor Ger Harley (ger@scottishfitba net)Admin Team (admin@scottishfitba net)This is Scottish-Fitba Net