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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 May, 2003, 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK
Thrilling Sunday in prospect
Sunday 25 May
Sportscene BBC1 1440-1735 BST Rangers v Dunfermline
BBC2 1455-1645 - Kilmarnock v Celtic

By Clive Lindsay
BBC Sport

Celtic's Jackie McNamara is sent flying at Rugby Park
Kilmarnock have already tripped up Celtic at Rugby Park

The SPL comes to a conclusion on Sunday with just one goal separating Rangers and Celtic - ensuring a dramatic and nerve-jangling finale to the season.

Fear of defeat will be as much a deciding factor as desire to win for the two Glasgow teams.

Thousands will pack Ibrox and Rugby Park. Loads more will be glued to the television as BBC Scotland provides unprecedented live coverage of the two games that mean so much to so many.

And the Scottish Premier League's convoy will sit perched midway between Glasgow and Kilmarnock, ready to speed the trophy whichever way up or down the M77 the pendulum finally swings after a season of highs and lows for both sides of the Old Firm divide.

The title race has gone to the wire for the first time for five seasons and could be settled on goal difference for the first time since Celtic so famously robbed Hearts in a final-day turnaround back in 1986.

If both sides win by the same margin, for the first time ever, it could all come down to the number of goals scored throughout the season, or even lead to a play-off.

Celtic travel to face Kilmarnock on the back of Wednesday's Uefa Cup final defeat at the hands of Porto in Seville.

No amount of praise for their performance, or earlier defeats of the likes of Celta Vigo, Liverpool and Stuttgart, will ease the heartbreak of going so far only to return with nothing but losers' medals.

Celtic fans despair after Uefa Cup final defeat
Celtic fans will not want to repeat their Seville agony
Missing from the forthcoming Scottish Cup final, defeated by Rangers in the CIS Cup final, now the victims of a hard-luck tale in their first European final in 33 years, fear of ending the season with mere memories must be as much of a motivation as anything for O'Neill side.

If they could look to the European Cup-winning Lisbon Lions for inspiration in Spain, Celtic can dig into their history and this time seek to emulate the side who, 17 years ago, thumped a necessary five goals past St Mirren as leaders Hearts slumped to a 2-0 defeat at Dundee.

They can also look to 1998, when Wim Jansen's Celtic prevented Walter Smith's Rangers claiming a historic 10 titles in a row with the win they needed at home to St Johnstone.

This time, it is Alex McLeish's side who start in front, beginning the day one goal to the good as they entertain Dunfermline Athletic at Ibrox.

Whereas Celtic face an in-form Kilmarnock side who held them to a draw on their last visit to Ayrshire, the Pars arrive in Glasgow having conceded 16 goals and scored only one in their last four Ibrox capitulations.

They last avoided defeat there in 1988, have not won on Rangers' turf since the 1971-72 season and have won only one of their last 10 games as they slipped out of contention for a Uefa Cup qualification spot.

But nerves can play cruel games with the form book and Rangers have already squandered an eight-point lead.

Old Firm football is a tight community where friendships cross the divide in a city where someone, somewhere is likely to relish reminding you of your failures wherever you turn.

Rangers goalkeeper Stefan Klos has already warned his team-mates about the pain of losing a title on goal difference, having suffered at the hands of Stuttgart while with Borussia Dortmund.

And manager Alex McLeish called a special meeting of his players and coaching staff to discuss how they will handle the news filtering through via BBC television and radio coverage.

Rangers' Neil McCann challenges Lee Bullen of Dunfermline
The Pars have traditionally performed poorly at Ibrox
McLeish is so anxious that his players know what is required of them that the score from Rugby Park will be displayed on the two large screens at either end of the Ibrox pitch.

St Mirren's 1986 goal surrender led some to point to the number of Celtic fans in their side and many have already prepared similar conspiracy theories ahead of the Ibrox appearance by another side in black and white stripes.

But wherever the championship trophy sits on Sunday, the debate will have only just begun after another nerve-jangling day in a championship race and season that has breathed new life into Scottish football.

Who will win the Scottish Premier League title on Sunday?
24673 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion





Old Firm climax live on BBC
20 May 03  |  Scottish Premier
SPL goes to the wire
18 May 03  |  Scottish Premier
SPL announces play-off date
15 May 03  |  Scottish Premier

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