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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 September 2006, 14:33 GMT 15:33 UK
Baptism of Old Firm fire
By Colin Moffat

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Sasa Papac will meet on Saturday
Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Sasa Papac will meet on Saturday
The Ryder Cup is not the only event where rookies will be put through the mill this sporting weekend.

Celtic can move seven points clear of bitter rivals Rangers in the championship race with a home win in Saturday's Old Firm derby.

And there will be several players on both sides who will be sampling the white-hot atmosphere of this classic encounter for the first time.

This match may go a long way to making or breaking a few careers in Glasgow.

Title-holders Celtic start this game as favourites, having made a brighter start to the campaign and enjoying home advantage.

Rangers have won just one of their last nine visits across the city.

And the Celtic team appears more settled, despite the influx of new faces.

EXCELLENT OLD FIRM DEBUTS
Derek Johnstone (Rangers) Oct 24, 1970 - At 16, scored only goal in League Cup final
Paul McStay (Celtic) Oct 30, 1982 - The week of his 18th birthday - scored in a 3-2 win
Erik Bo Anderson (Rangers) Jan 2, 1997 - The sub scored twice in a 3-1 win
Lubomir Moravcik (Celtic) Nov 21, 1998 - The crafty Slovak bagged two goals in a 5-1 victory
Chris Sutton (Celtic) Aug 27, 2000 - The striker scored twice in a 6-2 demolition

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink is an ideal replacement for the departed John Hartson, while Thomas Gravesen's arrival goes some way to softening the loss of Stilian Petrov.

Both men will relish the physical aspect of an Old Firm clash and both have big-game experience at international and European level.

Defenders Lee Naylor and Gary Caldwell don't have the same pedigree but will have picked up valuable experience from this month's Champions League trip to Manchester United.

Caldwell has looked a little vulnerable at the centre of defence and his place will be under threat from fit-again Bobo Balde.

The Guinea international cuts an imposing figure and has three goals against Rangers to his credit.

Naylor may have to curb his willingness to get forward, but Rangers will have to wary of his crosses from the left.

Other new Bhoys - Jiri Jarosik, Evander Sno and Derek Riordan - will be vying for a place on the bench.

Rangers were simply brushed aside by a vibrant Hibs last weekend and will need to show more mettle at Celtic Park.

Manager Paul Le Guen has chopped and changed his team from week to week.

Some of his signings have shown glimpses of what they have to offer, with Lee Martin perhaps the pick of the bunch.

OLD FIRM DEBUTS TO FORGET
Frank McAvennie (Celtic) Oct 17, 1987 - Sent off and ended up in court along with Rangers duo Terry Butcher and Chris Woods
Ian Andrews (Celtic) Aug 27, 1988 - The English goalkeeper was embarrassed in a 5-1 defeat
Scott Wilson (Rangers) Nov 21, 1998 - The now Dunfermline defender was sent off after 22 mins as his team slumped to a 5-1 defeat
Fernando Ricksen (R'gers) Aug 27, 2000 - The defender was withdrawn after 23 mins, following a shocking start

But it is a huge step up for a teenager, whose previous experience comes from the Manchester United reserves and a loan spell in Belgium.

Jeremy Clement and Phil Bardsley look like they are made of the right stuff but miss out through injury and suspension.

Sasa Papac has only played one full game but could be handed a start in a high-pressure match due to the indifferent form of fellow new centre-half Karl Svensson.

Filip Sebo and Libor Sionko are other new arrivals who may miss out on Saturday.

Czech midfielder Sionko made a promising start to the season but has faded and made little impact during Wednesday's CIS Cup win away to Dunfermline.

Sebo scored on his first start against Hibs, but Le Guen will surely opt to play the free-scoring Kris Boyd as his lead striker.

Goalkeeper Lionel Letizi is unlikely to be rushed back from injury and the Frenchman's deputy, Allan McGregor, has yet to play in an Old Firm game, despite joining Rangers in 1998.

Kenny Miller is another new player at Celtic this season, but this will not be his first taste of the Old Firm hostilities.

The Scotland striker played in two derbies in 2000/01 - his one full season with Rangers.

He failed to find the net in either, a 5-1 win and 1-0 loss, and has yet to open his account for Celtic.

A winning goal for any of the new faces on show will guarantee instant hero status - at least until the next showdown between these two great rivals.

SEE ALSO
Le Guen content with cup victory
21 Sep 06 |  Scottish Cups
Clement will miss Old Firm derby
19 Sep 06 |  Rangers
Strachan cleared to sit in dugout
19 Sep 06 |  Scottish Premier


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