Rangers v Hibernian

Mark Warburton and Alan Stubbs

BBC coverage

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On-loan Tottenham defender Dominic Ball will miss Rangers’ Scottish Cup final against Hibernian at Hampden Park through suspension.

Wingers Michael O’Halloran and Billy King are cup-tied, while midfielders Harry Forrester and David Templeton remain sidelined through injury.

Hibs midfielder Dylan McGeouch is vying for a return after recovering from a groin problem.

But striker Farid El Alagui will miss out with a hamstring complaint.

Reporter’s notes

It is the 131st Scottish Cup final, but never before have the two sides competing for the world’s oldest national trophy both been outside the nation’s top flight.

In all that time, only one English manager has led his side to glory – Reg Smith with Falkirk back in 1957 – and no team other than East Fife in 1938 have lifted the trophy while playing outside the top division.

Those statistics will change as Scottish Championship winners Rangers face Hibernian, who finished third behind them this season, at a sell-out Hampden Park.

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Will it be joy for Alan Stubbs in his 100th game in charge of Hibs? Or will Mark Warburton further justify his PFA Scotland manager of the year award by winning his third piece of silverware since switching from Brentford to Ibrox?

The motivation for their two sides could not be more contrasting.

For Rangers, it is the completion of a unique treble, having won the second tier title and Petrofac Training Cup.

For Hibs, it is the avoidance of a triple dose of misery after defeat by Ross County in the League Cup final and the loss to Falkirk in last week’s Premiership play-off semi-final, which ended their own hopes of promotion for a second consecutive season.

That’s even before you consider the Edinburgh club’s 114 years of hurt.

That’s how long it is since Hibs last lifted the Scottish Cup and it is a statistic that has weighed heavily on previous Scottish Cup final teams from Leith.

They have now lost their last 10 finals, the most recent being to Celtic in 2013.

Rangers, meanwhile, are looking to lift the trophy for the 34th time – only two fewer than city rivals Celtic – in their 51st final appearance.


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Mark Warburton’s journey to Ibrox dugout

The weight of history would appear to favour the Glasgow side, who have only lost 69 of their 348 meetings with Hibs.

However, both the Scottish Cup encounters – and the most recent games – are much more even.

They have faced one another 32 times in the competition, with Rangers coming out on top 14 times and Hibs winning 10.

While Rangers have won three of their five meetings this season and finished 11 points ahead of Stubbs’ side in the league table, Hibs have beaten the Ibrox side twice and a 3-2 win at Easter Road last month is freshest in the memories of the two sides.

The final might not only be decided by how Hibs react to their recent lows and Rangers respond to their season of highs but by their contrasting preparations.

Rangers have had to be content with training and a closed-doors friendly with Tottenham Hotspur since a 2-2 draw away to St Mirren ended their league campaign on 1 May.

Since then, Hibs have played four times as they endured a hectic schedule of 10 games in 31 days.

Defeat by Falkirk gave them an eight-day break that was unwelcome in terms of failing to reach the play-off final, but it is a rest that could just be their making at Hampden.

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It might be just what they needed after a run of only one win in their last four outings. Rangers, meanwhile, have had plenty of time to worry about a downturn in form that led to four games without a win since their semi-final win over Scottish champions Celtic.

Warburton will be able to call on top scorer Martyn Waghorn after the former Wigan striker returned from injury and that more than compensates for O’Halloran being cup-tied.


Hibs were 3-2 winners when the teams last met at Easter Road in April

Rangers have enough midfield cover for the loss of Forrester through injury but the absence of Ball means that Warburton is unlikely to have any defensive cover on the bench.

For Stubbs, the recovery from injury of McGeouch is a bonus, but his dilemma is up front, where in-form James Keatings has been preferred in recent games to Jason Cummings amid doubts over their top scorer’s ability to form a partnership with on-loan Celtic man Anthony Stokes.

The carrot of qualifying for next season’s Europa League – or simply ending Rangers’ run of winning their last six Scottish Cup finals – pales into insignificance for Hibs compared to that long wait to have their name etched on the favour trophy.

Back in 1902, the Hibs team that beat Celtic 1-0 had a certain Archie Gray at right-back. The present Hibs side is captained by right-back David Gray.

Half of Hampden will be hoping that is an omen for Hibs as they look to strike lucky in their third final in five seasons.

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