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Friday, 4 February, 2000, 20:09 GMT
Celtic desperate for win

Celtic fans have a limited chance of catching Rangers

With Rangers not playing until Sunday's visit to Hibernian, Celtic know they have to beat Hearts on Saturday and close the widening gap at the top of the Scottish Premier.

The Gers' win over Dundee United on Wednesday extended their lead to nine points, and they are threatening to turn the title race into a procession.

Their bitter rivals know they cannot afford to drop any more points until the two remaining Old Firm games in March.

The two games are the highlights of the weekend's SPL programme, which also sees St Johnstone travel to Aberdeen and Dundee visit Motherwell.

Meanwhile Kilmarnock play Alloa in a delayed Scottish Cup third round tie.

Celtic v Hearts

Celtic do not expect Olivier Tebily to return from his Ivory Coast ordeal in a military camp until Monday or Tuesday.

But Alan Stubbs should be fit after an ankle problem while Vidar Riseth is back from international duty with Norway.

Hearts could be without Scotland striker Gary McSwegan, but his place can be taken by fit-again Stephane Adam.

Thomas Flogel has also recovered from a back problem and may start.

Aberdeen v St Johnstone

The Dons are without striker Eoin Jess because of ankle ligament damage, while Derek Whyte is also unavailable for family reasons.

Veteran Jim Leighton seems likely to retain his place in goal ahead of David Preece.

Saints' leading scorer Nathan Lowndes is doubftul with a back problem while midfielder Kieran McAnespie is pressing for a recall.

Motherwell v Dundee

Motherwell will offer late fitness tests to Dutch defender Benito Kemble and winger Kevin Twaddle, but both are expected to be fit.

Manager Billy Davies may still make changes after the dismal midweek cup draw at Arbroath.

Dundee are without suspended duo Patricio Billio and Nicky Banger, but manager Jocky Scott's options are boosted by James Grady's return to fitness.

Scottish Cup: Kilmarnock v Alloa

Kilmarnock are still without long-term victims Gordon Marshall and Kevin McGowne, but Andy Smith should return to the attack after missing the CIS Cup semi-final win over Hearts in midweek.

Alloa centre-half David Beaton is the Division Two visitors' main doubt after collecting a knock in the second-round replay victory over Whitehill Welfare.

Sunday SPL fixture: Hibernian v Rangers

Hibs have no fitness worries but manager Alex McLeish has pledged to make few changes with Pat McGinlay likely to be on the bench.

Rangers have no fresh injury concerns but are still without first-choice right-back Sergio Porrini, meaning Tony Vidmar continues in that role.

Turkish newcomer Tugay Kerimoglu will be desperate to start.

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See also:
04 Feb 00 |  Scottish Premier
Tebily is Glasgow bound
02 Feb 00 |  Scottish Premier
Rangers cruising away
31 Jan 00 |  Scottish Premier
Celtic chief faces referee charge
30 Jan 00 |  Football
Double Dutch for Rangers
30 Jan 00 |  Football
Four off in fiery tie
31 Jan 00 |  Football
Caley soak up buses cost
29 Jan 00 |  Football
McSwegan spares Hearts' blushes
29 Jan 00 |  Football
Easy going for Hibs
26 Jan 00 |  Scottish Premier
Dons leave it late
26 Jan 00 |  Scottish Premier
Points shared at Dens Park
28 Jan 00 |  Scottish Premier
Fans bid for perfect pitch
22 Jan 00 |  Scottish Premier
Rangers back in business
Links to other Scottish Premier stories are at the foot of the page.