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SWPL Cup final: Rangers v Partick Thistle - what to expect on Sunday at Tynecastle

SWPL Cup final - Rangers v Partick Thistle

Venue: Tynecastle Park, Edinburgh Date: Sunday, 24 March Kick-off: 13:30 GMT

Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland, live text commentary on the BBC Sport website

Part-time Partick Thistle against league leaders and trophy holders Rangers - it is a long time since any side has gone into an SWPL Cup final as such heavy underdogs.

It is not the Glasgow derby most would have been expecting at the start of the competition.

But, with six-time winners Glasgow City ousted in the last eight by Celtic, who were then beaten by Rangers in the semi-final, the opportunity was there for a team outside the SWPL's top three to reach the final.

Thistle are an improving side under the management of Brian Graham, the veteran striker still playing for the men's team, and should be no pushovers.

They have qualified for the SWPL's top six for the second season running and have beaten three top-flight rivals to reach their first national final.

Thistle have also given Rangers a bit of trouble in the league this season, losing 1-0 away in September before a goalless draw at home last month.

Jo Potter's Ibrox side go into the final on the back of their first domestic defeat of the season, so what is the mood in the camps as they prepare to do battle at Tynecastle Park?

Rangers chasing domestic treble

When Rangers beat Hibernian 2-0 in last season's final, it appeared to be further proof that they and Celtic were eclipsing Glasgow City as the dominant forces in Scottish women's football thanks to the backing of cash-rich parent clubs willing to finance full-time professionalism.

City showed great resilience to come from behind and snatch back the league title from Rangers on the final day of the season, but the Ibrox side are back on top of the pile again this term.

Last weekend's 2-1 defeat by Celtic allowed both their city rivals to narrow the gap at the top to one point, but few give Thistle much hope of denying Rangers the first of what could be a domestic treble.

Head coach Potter is expecting an immediate response from a side full of internationals.

"We don't shy away from the fact we didn't do a lot of things right on Sunday," the former England midfielder said. "We don't paper over cracks, we deal with them.

"We are not perfect. I am definitely not, but we have been near as damn it this year.

"That first loss is always going to feel bigger and it was just my job to make sure we didn't get too low, make sure we learn from it and move forward quickly."

Thistle boss Graham eyes 'history'

Thistle also go into Sunday's final off the back of a defeat. A 2-0 loss to Hibs not only allowed the Leith side to open up a four-point gap between themselves and Thistle in sixth place, but came at a cost for Graham, with the manager sent to the stand for two yellow cards.

The cup final was actually moved so Graham could attend. It had been scheduled for Saturday, but with the 36-year-old due to travel to Arbroath with the men's team, the women's big day was put back 24 hours to avoid a clash of commitments.

Thistle's progress to the final has been dogged rather than flashy. A 2-0 win over Spartans was followed by a 2-1 defeat of Montrose before seven-time winners Hibs were impressively dispatched Hibs 2-0.

Making history has been Graham's theme this week as he looks to recapture the giant-killing spirit of the famous 4-1 League Cup victory the men's team enjoyed over Celtic in 1971.

Graham himself lifted the League Cup with Ross County as a player - as well as league titles with Thistle, County and Hibs - but insists claiming his first silverware as a manager would be even sweeter.

"The first silverware you win as a manager is extremely special," he said. "So, fingers crossed, I can do it on Sunday."

Where might the cup be won?

In a delicious late twist, Thistle are set to hand a Celtic goalkeeper the gloves for their date with destiny against Rangers.

With Megan Cunningham - currently on loan at Thistle from Rangers - ineligible to face her parent club, Graham's side have bought in Celtic's Chloe Logan on an emergency seven-day loan. Could she emerge as the hero?

The 27-year-old is assured a busy shift against a fearsome frontline led by 23-goal Rio Hardy. Despite topping the Ibrox goal charts, Hardy is under pressure for a start following fit-again Scotland veteran Jane Ross' scoring appearance off the bench in last weekend's league defeat by Celtic.

If Thistle - who trail Rangers by 22 points in the league - are to spring a surprise, Logan will likely need to produce a dream debut while the strength in midfield of Linzi Taylor, who has played in Iceland, Israel, Cyprus and United States and has scored two of her side's six SWPL Cup goals this season, will also be important.