Alan Hutton believes a wonderful week for Rangers has reignited their season.
And the former Ibrox star is adamant his old club will be waiting to pounce in the title race if Celtic make any late slips.
After the heroics of extra-time wins over Braga and their Old Firm rivals in the Europa League and Scottish Cups, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men now have fresh hope as they reset their focus back on to the flag fight.
With five games to go and a six-point deficit, Hutton realizes it out of Light Blue hands.
But victories over Motherwell at Fir Park and Celtic on Sunday week in Glasgow’s East End will cut the deficit to three at worst with a trio of big May matches to come.
Hutton accepts Celtic are in pole Premiership position but reckons Rangers will continue to try and hunt them down with verve after cup successes which have brought fresh energy and confidence surging through the first-team ranks.
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He said: “The semi-final was an absolutely massive result. Huge. The team went into the game under pressure after back-to-back defeats against Celtic and they needed a big performance.
“They got that, so I am looking forward to the Scottish Cup Final and you never know what can happen in the league.
“After Sunday’s result, there are still five games left and it is up to them to go and put down a marker.
Celtic have to go and get it over the line. If they do slip up, and remember it is games against the other top teams in the league so there are going to be no easy ones, Rangers are now going to be chasing them all the way.
“All of these Rangers players are judged on what you win. You have to win. You have to get silverware.
“The semi-final was a big statement from them having gone from extra time against Braga and into extra time against Celtic. So it is up to them to chase Celtic down now.
Rangers faced a defining week. The European performance and then the game against Celtic. Had they beaten in both of those games, the season was effectively done.
“But it is the opposite and it can kick Rangers on now.
“Again, they know the league is going to be difficult. There are only five games left and with six points as well as the goal difference.
“But I’m sure they will keep going until the end.”
Even if the league proves out of reach for the defending champions and they relinquish their crown, Van Bronckhorst’s term can still have a silver lining with other exploits at home and on the continent. His team from him will tackle Hearts in the Scottish Cup Final, while victory over RB Leipzig in the last four of the Europa League will see them meet either West Ham or Eintracht Frankfurt in the Seville showpiece just days before their Hampden date with the Tynecastle outfit .
Van Bronckhorst was criticized after losing the last league game on home soil to Celtic, but those extra-time wins over Braga and Ange Postecoglou’s team have seen him saluted by fans.
Hutton said: “I was a young boy when he [GVB] was at the club, but I know how much it means to him. He played for Rangers and is now the manager, so back-to-back defeats from Celtic, he would not have liked that and you could see the emotion from him after the game at Hampden last Sunday.”
Van Bronckhorst has needed big performances from his troops in the past week and some of his stand-ins have stepped up to the plate. Subs Scott Arfield, Steven Davis and Fashion Sakala had huge says at Hampden, while Kemar Roofe has ably covered the absence of top scorer Alfredo Morelos.
Hutton said: “Roofe has had to bide his time behind Morelos. He had shown glimpses of what he was capable of such as when we went on and scored a winner against the likes of Aberdeen.
“It was difficult for him in the previous Old Firm games because the service to him was not good. He needs bodies around him.
“I played against him when he was at Leeds, so I’ve seen him up close and personal and I know that he is a fantastic player.
“It’s been difficult coming up to Rangers and, maybe, having to play a little bit second fiddle to Morelos.
“But he’s a different profile of a player. He can hold the ball up, he likes one-twos and getting shots off quickly.
“Morelos is different. He can occupy two centre-backs, Roofe is not going to do that and you have to play to his strengths from him.
“Like you saw last Sunday for Arfield’s goal, if you get bodies around Roofe in attacking areas, he can help to create.”