Rangers v Celtic: Experience key for semi-final - Alex McLeish

Alex McLeish and Alex Rae
Alex McLeish and Alex Rae were in the Ibrox dugout on Sunday for a Fernando Ricksen tribute match
League Cup semi-final: Celtic v Rangers
Venue: Hampden Park Date: Sunday, 1 February Kick off: 13:30
Coverage: Live on BBC Scotland, BBC Sport website & BBC Radio Scotland

Former Rangers manager Alex McLeish thinks they will need to rely on older heads to have a chance of upsetting Celtic in the League Cup semi-final.

"I think we have to be realistic and say that, at this moment, Celtic have more quality," McLeish told BBC Scotland ahead of Sunday's game.

"Normally, they should win it, but it's a cup tie and the Rangers players will be fired up for it.

"I'd like to think the experienced guys can do something special."

Captain Lee McCulloch and striker Kris Boyd have been involved in many tussles with Celtic, while Kenny Miller has tasted the derby for both teams.

McLeish, now in charge of Genk in Belgium, spent five-and-a-half seasons at Ibrox, winning the League Cup on three occasions.

The 56-year-old also lifted two Premier League titles and two Scottish Cups with Rangers before a short spell as Scotland manager.

Premiership leaders Celtic are 13 league places above Rangers, who lie second in the Championship, and this will be the first meeting of the sides since April 2012.

Alex Rae is McLeish's assistant at Genk and played under him for two years at Ibrox.

And the former midfielder also believes his old team have a chance if they defend well and stay disciplined at Hampden Park.

"The expectation from most people outside Rangers is that it's a foregone conclusion; a 'gimme'," said the 45-year-old.

"But you never know on any given day. If Rangers can keep it tight and maybe nick a goal, it could give them that impetus to see it out."

Rae, a title winner in 2004-05, described his memories of the fixture as "a mixed bag" and emphasised the need for clear heads.

Alex McLeish won the League Cup three times with Rangers
Alex McLeish won the League Cup three times with Rangers

"Obviously, when you win them, it's great and, when you lose, you have to dust yourself down and try and go again as quickly as possible," he told BBC Scotland.

"It's been away for about three years now, so it makes for a good day.

"The intensity is phenomenal. The build-up, it's just a special occasion.

"You need to be totally focused or you can get carried away by the occasion. We've seen it over the years when players have lost the plot and cost their team.

"You also have to set your mark early to the fellow you're playing against and get some momentum going."

McLeish and Rae were in the Ibrox dugout for Sunday's tribute match for Fernando Ricksen.

The charity game attracted a crowd of 41,000, significantly higher than recent home gates.

"This place needs to be full and, when it is, you see the kind of atmosphere it generates," added McLeish, who was keen to avoid discussing the various power struggles playing out amid a backdrop of financial strife at Rangers.

"Every day, it's a different story. The politics side of it is something I don't want to get involved in.

"When I see the Championship with Rangers, Hearts and Hibs all in there, that's decimating for Scottish football.

"It would be so good to get those three clubs back into the Premier League."