Rangers play Hibs away tomorrow and definitely feels like this will be the biggest, and perhaps first, challenge of the season.
I remember watching an episode of American trash TV show My 600-ib life, ostensibly a fly-on-the-wall show following the lives, such as they are, of those almost too fat to exist. In this episode, one woman, who was almost 50 stone in weight, was seeking surgery to help get her life on track with support from her friend. Her friend, I was surprised to find out, was herself almost 40 stone, but you’d never have known because you only ever saw the two together. By comparison, she didn’t look so large at all.
In football too, you’re only really as good as the League you’re in and the competition you have. PSG a billion points ahead? Well it’s only a farmer’s league, after all. There’s definitely an element of this in Scotland too, without Rangers the standard is definitely middling and winning the title wouldn’t be much to brag about in such a hypothetical situation.
Nonetheless, you can only play, and beat, who you are up against. So it’s been for the Light Blues this season – 6 wins and 1 draw in 7 games with 0 goals conceded. Dominance no matter how much you slice it, against three quarters of the Premiership.
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One little caveat, however. Rangers have yet to play the two teams beneath them in the table, Hibs and Celtic, a issue that will be solved within the next month. Aberdeen are definitely on the bigger end of the scale, but otherwise the Light Blues have yet to be fully challenged and it shows. No goals conceded, a league leading average of less than 4 shots conceded, league leading statistics in goals scored, chances, possession, passes per game and pass accuracy to boot.
It looks amazing and it’s really easy to get carried away, but with those two challenges looming, the hype may well be premature. With Hibernian away getting ticked off the list, it’s comforting to see that Steven Gerrard is aware of this too, and isn’t going to let himself or the team get carried away. As quoted by the Herald;
"“In terms of Hibs, they are a strong team, they are playing with confidence and a lot of rhythm in their game and they have got a good coach.“It is going to be a tough challenge for us going to Easter Road but we are going there with confidence ourselves, we are playing well, defending well and look a real good threat going forward.“We are going to Easter Road to attack and win the game and my focus is certainly on us and we couldn’t be in a better place going into it.I wouldn’t like to disrespect Aberdeen by saying that [this will be our toughest challenge domestically]. Going to Pittodrie for the first game of the season, on the back of a different pre-season, was a very big challenge as well.I don’t like to rate what was tougher. But what I will say is that Easter Road is going to be another tough challenge for us.We are playing against a good Hibs team that are in form so we treat this game in isolation but certainly with respect and confidence that we can go there and do the job.”"
Essentially what Stevie G is saying here is “I’m not going to say Hibs is a bigger challenge than Aberdeen, but it is” – and he’s right. Aberdeen have played less thanks to COVID-19 and have been understrength otherwise. Hibs we are meeting when they are flying high, joint second in the table, with points to prove. Plus the whole rivalry thing we seem to have with teams wearing green, for reasons it’s probably best not to get into right now.
Of course, the real challenge will be Celtic next month, but Hibs will ultimately be the first real test of how good we are because, I thibk, they won’t do like every other team we’ve played so far and park the bus. Rangers’ opponents have defended religiously, trying to keep the score down, playing for the point. Hibs are a step above and will come out and attack – how will the back four cope when under real pressure?
We’ve talked before about our record breaking, history making run of shutouts – but it’s been made easy by the fact our opponents haven’t really shown the desire or ability to attack. The fixture list has been kind.
That ends tomorrow and it’s time for the Gers to step up to the mark. I personally think we are more than good enough to get all three points and keep the clean sheet record going too. That said, it’ll be nice to finally stand next to someone bigger and see just how fat we really have become.