Gerrard's Rangers revival needs final flourish against Celtic

Rangers have had to recover from liquidation and rise through Scotland's lower leagues since the Glasgow giants last won a major trophy in 2011, but Sunday's League Cup final gives Steven Gerrard's men the chance to halt Celtic's dominance.

Celtic have cashed in on Rangers' demise, winning the last eight Scottish league titles and a hat-trick of domestic trebles over the past three seasons.

The green-and-white half of the city lead the league again, but by just two points with Rangers a different proposition in the 18 months since former Liverpool captain Gerrard took the brave decision to embark on his first managerial job in the Glasgow goldfish bowl.

"I took over at a very difficult time, the team and the club had suffered for some time and the results were very indifferent. I'd like to think now we've built a more consistent team, a move competitive team," said Gerrard on Friday.

Rangers are back competing strongly in Europe and beat Celtic twice in the league last season for the first time since the club went bust in the 2011/12 season.

The next step is to topple the Scottish champions in a landmark occasion as the two clash in a final for the first time 2011.

"I think the teams are relatively even now that Rangers have invested wisely in the squad," David Weir, who captained Rangers to victory in that League Cup final eight years ago, told AFP.

"Celtic are used to winning, used to winning finals and used to winning leagues and that is something Rangers are still to do.

"It's been eight years since Rangers won a major trophy so that's the bit, the last bit to show everyone that they are back and the cup final gives them a great opportunity to do that."

Alfredo Morelos has been the catalyst for Rangers' progress both domestically and in Europe. The Colombian has scored 25 goals already this season, 13 of which have come in the Europa League.

Morelos is already being linked with a big money move to one of Europe's top five leagues, but outgoing Rangers chairman Dave King is adamant he will not be sold in January as they try to stop Celtic matching a Scottish record of nine titles in a row.

Closing the gap, however, has come at a cost for Rangers. The club have posted £25 million ($33 million) of losses over the past two seasons despite an 82 percent increase in turnover and need to borrow a further £10 million before the end of this season to meet a shortfall.

Rangers are confident assets like Morelos mean those debts will not be as troublesome as the ones with tax authorities that led to the club's downfall seven years ago.

But time is of the essence for Gerrard to deliver on the budget he has been afforded by the Rangers' board.

"You have to say the progress has been impressive but trophies are what counts and ultimately winning the league is what is the benchmark for Rangers," added Weir.

Unfortunately for Rangers, Celtic have so far risen to the challenge, winning 11 games in a row in all competitions.

"I think Rangers have improved, but I think what gets overlooked is that we’re improving too," said Celtic manager Neil Lennon.

Gerrard's playing career was littered with marquee moments to win finals like the 2005 Champions League and 2006 FA Cup for Liverpool. Now he needs the same golden touch from the sidelines to give long-suffering Rangers' fans something to celebrate.

"Throughout my life football has always been about cup finals and success," added Gerrard. "I'm very much looking forward to it."

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