Could next week’s Old Firm be a turning point for Rangers?
With the exception of the Scottish FA Cup semi-final in 2016, Rangers fans haven’t had much to shout about as far as their recent fixtures against Celtic are concerned.
A battling scoreless draw just before the New Year represented a marked improvement on recent performances against their Old Firm rivals – a result that has precipitated an excellent run of form going into this upcoming clash.
Since suffering demotion to the fourth tier of the pyramid, Rangers have effectively been playing catch-up.
Their absence from the top tier allowed Celtic to win Premiership titles unchallenged and establish a stranglehold on the domestic game.
Over the last few weeks, we have seen and heard pundits suggest that this is unlikely to continue for much longer, with the Gers appearing to have finally overcome a number of the stumbling blocks that stand between them and title number 55.
It probably won’t happen in May, although the dynamics of this season’s championship race could alter drastically if the Bears take all three points at Ibrox on Sunday.
The ease with which Celtic romped to the title last season was in stark contrast to another embarrassing European campaign that highlighted, frankly, just how average they are in European terms.
Winning six league titles on the bounce seems impressive on paper but should surely have been the minimum expectation considering Rangers have been absent, beleaguered and on a slow road to recovery during those years.
And now, with the first real semblance of stability demonstrated since 2012, the country’s most decorated club are beginning to roll away the stone.
Since the turn of the year, Rangers have picked up more points than anyone else in the division. They’ve also comfortably outscored the other eleven teams.
You might be left wondering what might have been, had Pedro Caixinha’s tumultuous spell in charge ended a month or so earlier than it actually did.
That brings us to Sunday.
For the first time in a while, Rangers supporters are genuinely optimistic about their prospects of winning their first Old Firm league encounter for more than six years.
Fans of the Light Blues are no longer resigned to defeat, as they generally were both before and after the painful 5-1 drubbing suffered at home last campaign.
Graeme Murty has made some fantastic signings and restored a sense of pride around the club that has led to a sharp upturn in results.
James Tavernier and Josh Windass – two players that were often castigated not so long ago – have been star performers this term.
Their outstanding contributions have been complemented by the goals of new recruit Alfredo Morelos, and the assists of Daniel Candeias.
The January arrivals of Jamie Murphy and Greg Docherty have also quickly settled in, as has QPR loanee Sean Goss.
Make no mistake, this is very much a transformed Rangers side who will be a far tougher proposition for Celtic than they have been in recent fixtures.
A win here would make a huge statement and leave their foes from the east end of Glasgow under no illusions about the threat they carry going forward.
But it would also be a huge monkey off the club’s back and, psychologically at least, feel one step closer to a first league title since 2011. Soon, rather than later, it’s coming.