CHARLIE NICHOLAS has defended Giovanni van Bronckhorst ahead of the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic at Hampden on Sunday.

The Dutchman has taken some flak with the Ibrox team dropping behind Ange Postecoglou’s side by six points with only five Premiership games to play after leading at the break. The Hoops turned it around with a full-throttle 3-0 triumph at Parkhead at the start of February to go top for the first time in 17 months – and they have remained there ever since.

They cemented their pole position in Govan a couple of weekends ago when they staged a quickfire comeback to win 2-1 with first-half strikes from Tom Rogic and Cameron Carter-Vickers.

Former Celtic goal hero Nicholas is quick to absolve Steven Gerrard’s successor of the blame, but reckons the club’s board are now getting a “reality check”.

IBROX AFTERMATH…Ange Postecoglou consoles loser Giovanni van Bronckhorst.

The one-time Hoops fans’ favourite reckons the team are on thin ice in two Cup competitions this week and could go out of BOTH in the space of three days if Sporting Braga complete the job in the Europa League quarter-final second leg in Glasgow on Thursday night after winning 1-0 at home last week.

Nicholas said: “I reckon Celtic can end Rangers’ season in the Scottish Cup semi-final this weekend.

“I fully expect Celtic to see off Rangers and if they go out of the Europa League then it really would be a final blow to their hopes of glory.

“If that is the case, then there will be a lot of fingers pointing from the light blue side of the city.

“I wouldn’t blame Giovanni van Bronckhorst. If that was to happen, then it is down to the Rangers board and the lack of humility they showed last year.

“They wanted to fight the world and got ideas above their station.

“They are now getting a reality check and they deserve it. The board was trying to pick fights and to flex their muscles and they have taken their eye off the ball.”

A WING AND A SLAYER…Filipe Jota is poised to play a pivotal role at Hampden.

Nicholas, speaking to the Daily Express, added: “They failed to strengthen their team adequately after they won the league. They didn’t deliver much in the summer for Steven Gerrard.

“They brought in Aaron Ramsey and a couple of others in January, but failed to provide more competition for the central striking option.

“Van Bronckhorst has been suckered into things and I wouldn’t blame him for the situation Rangers are currently in.

“It could be that Rangers win in Europe and beat Celtic, but I can’t see it. I have to say I fancy Celtic really strongly.

“They pass the ball with a purpose and are more dangerous than Rangers.”



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