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Page last updated at 19:43 GMT, Wednesday, 20 May 2009 20:43 UK

BBC pundits on title showdown

Rangers lead Celtic by two points going into the final round of Scottish Premier League fixtures, with the Ibrox club travelling to Tannadice to face Dundee United while Celtic host Hearts.

A win for Rangers would see them secure their first title in four attempts, but failure to record victory in Tayside could allow Celtic to clinch the championship on either points or goal difference.

Here, BBC Scotland pundits Murdo MacLeod and Craig Paterson share their thoughts on the title race.

Murdo MacLeod
By Murdo MacLeod
Former Celtic midfielder and assistant manager

It's going to be very tough for both sides. Obviously, Celtic are at home to Hearts and I would imagine Celtic would get all three points and keep the pressure on Rangers.

And Rangers are going to a place where they've not won in three years, but I'd still take it if you had the chance to go up there and win one game to win a title. I'm sure all the Rangers players will be focused on that issue.

Andrew Driver and Andreas Hinkel
Hearts travel to Celtic Park assured of Europa League qualification

When you get down to the last game of the season, you know what's at stake. This is what you've been working for all the time so it doesn't matter whether your away record is good, bad or indifferent; you've just got to win it.

The managers need to be positive. Gordon Strachan will play his usual system at Celtic Park, 4-4-2, and I'm sure Walter Smith, while he's changed it this season, will be comfortable going with two strikers at Tannadice. Whether it's going to be Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller, we'll wait and see but I still think he'll play 4-4-2.

Dundee United have got to get something from the game because of the European spot that's up for grabs. They'll want to be on a high and push it the whole way. It will be a major disappointment for United to lose - and to not finish in the top four - if Aberdeen leapfrog United by winning against Hibernian. So, United will be fired up for this game.

Financially, you'd rather go straight into the Champions League group stages rather than having play-off matches

Murdo MacLeod

For Hearts, the pressure is off, they've got third spot. But I still think when you've had a good season like they have, you want to go and prove to everyone that you can do even more. I don't think they'll give up the ghost. They'll got to Celtic Park looking for all three points.

Whether you're second and get beat by the last kick of the ball, it's a big blow to you if you don't win the league.

Financially, you'd rather go straight into the Champions League group stages rather than having to face play-off matches. But I still think the budget would be better for the side who actually wins the title.

I would say Rangers are favourites for the title. It doesn't matter how you win it. If they win 1-0, that's all they need to do and it just lets people know that they're the champions and have been the best and most consistent team in Scotland. That's who always wins the title.

Craig Paterson
By Craig Paterson
Former Rangers defender

They'll both be close games. I know Hearts' season is more or less finished. Finishing in third place for them was an achievement, but they'll want to go out in a bit of style and show they can play.

Christos Karipidis will be playing his last game for Hearts and Bruno Aguiar will possibly be doing the same. So there's one or two players who would like to go out in a blaze of glory. And that means going to Celtic Park and playing as well as they did earlier in the season when they got a draw.

Warren Feeney and David Weir
Dundee United have regularly caused Rangers problems

In the other game, Rangers know they've got everything to play for but Dundee United have to take something if Aberdeen win against Hibernian in order to book their European place.

It's going to be really, really difficult for Rangers. They haven't done particularly well at Tannadice in the recent past and they known they'll have to be at their very best.

These are like cup finals. From Rangers' point of view it's winner-takes-all. If they can get the three points there's absolutely nothing Celtic can do about it, which is the position you'd rather be in. Celtic just need to win the game and hope for the best, that Craig Levein's side that will produce something special at Tannadice.

I genuinely think the biggest thing this weekend is that the Scottish champions go right into the group stages of the Champions League. So you're looking at £10-12m going into the coffers of one club, and the losers facing two qualifying rounds. In the first round, they would play a decent side and in the second they could come up against the team that finishes fourth in the English Premier League, Arsenal, or a team of that quality you face.

People are saying they could both lose and Rangers win the title. Anyway you win it would be a good way to win it if you were a player, a manager or a fan

Craig Paterson

I think both Rangers and Celtic will win. I think Rangers will win the title because they have so much to play for having worked so hard to get to the final hurdle. I don't expect them to fall down and I think Celtic will ensure the pressure stays on by getting a victory against Hearts. Both victories might be by the odd goal.

People are saying they could both lose and Rangers win the title. Anyway you win it is a good way; whether you're a player, manager or a fan. I think both teams will have enough in their locker to make sure they do get positive results and I expect them both to record narrow victories.

Murdo MacLeod and Craig Paterson were speaking to BBC Sport's Andy Campbell



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see also
Police warning over SPL decider
20 May 09 |  Tayside and Central
Old Firm courting Hearts' Aguiar
19 May 09 |  Hearts
SPL final-day dramas
19 May 09 |  Scottish Premier
Boruc asks fans to be 'extra man'
19 May 09 |  Celtic
Caldwell puts faith in Dundee Utd
18 May 09 |  Celtic


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