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Page last updated at 11:43 GMT, Friday, 2 October 2009 12:43 UK

Form a worry for Old Firm

Steven Davis and Scott Brown will go head-to-head on Sunday
Old Firm tussles are always full of thrills and spills

By Colin Moffat

Rangers and Celtic go into the first Old Firm derby of the season in less than sparkling form, but the Beginners Guide to Sporting Clichés tells us what happens to the formbook on occasions like these.

The home side are licking their wounds after a 4-1 thumping from Sevilla on Tuesday, while two days later, also on home soil, Celtic were held to a 1-1 draw by Rapid Vienna, a team currently sitting fourth in the less-than-intimidating Austrian Bundesliga.

Rangers are seeking to end a disappointing run of three consecutive goalless draws on league duty, which has enabled Celtic to open up a four-point lead at the top of the table.

Both sides remain unbeaten on the domestic front but Celtic manager Tony Mowbray was far from happy with the performance in last weekend's 2-0 win at St Mirren.

In previous league matches, Celtic needed an injury time goal to see off Hearts, drew at home with Dundee United and held on grimly with 10-men to narrowly edge out Hibs at Easter Road.

It will be a big battle, so bring it on

Scott McDonald
Celtic striker

The honours were shared in the two league meetings at Ibrox last season and a single goal was enough to secure the points on each occasion.

Rangers face a potential defensive headache, with Madjid Bougherra rated doubtful as he is suffering from flu. Lee McCulloch may drop back from midfield to partner David Weir.

And, with both teams struggling to find their shooting boots at the moment, maybe we shouldn't expect a thriller.

With their forwards misfiring, it would not be a surprise to see the managers each going with a single striker and loading the midfield.

Kenny Miller is nursing a hamstring complaint, Kyle Lafferty is struggling for fitness and Kris Boyd is often overlooked for the bigger matches, so Walter Smith may have to repeat his Sevilla experiment and spearhead his attack with Steven Naismith.

However, Miller is the likeliest candidate to fulfil the lone striker role after missing out against Sevilla.

Pedro Mendes and Scott Brown in action
Mendes has not been influential for Rangers this season

Injury to Marc-Antoine Fortune has left Georgios Samaras and Chris Killen to partner Celtic's leading scorer Scott McDonald and neither man has seized the chance to impress.

Pat McCourt has scored twice in two outings for Celtic and, if he can shake off a knock, the Northern Ireland international may find himself starting, which could hand Aiden McGeady a free role supporting McDonald.

Looking ahead to Sunday, McDonald said: "If we were to win it would be fantastic.

"We would be seven clear once again but as we know, that can be cut down very quickly.

"It's a massive game against Rangers and so I don't think you need to pick yourself up for that one.

"I'm sure we will be ready for it as I'm sure Rangers will be after a disappointing result in Europe against Sevilla.

"It will be a big battle, so bring it on."

The midfield contest is always fierce and new arrival Landry N'Guemo has added steel to the visitors' armoury. However, Scott Brown has cut a forlorn figure in a more restrained role in the middle of the park.

Likewise, Pedro Mendes has failed to assert himself for Rangers this season and Kevin Thomson has perhaps been rushed back from injury too quickly and is yet to rediscover anything close to his best form.

MY SPORT: DEBATE

With the exception of the Sevilla game, Smith's men have been solid in defence, while Mowbray has been chopping and changing his centre-backs.

A blunder from Stephen McManus handed Rapid Vienna an early opening goal and that may pave the way for Glenn Loovens to return and partner Gary Caldwell, who has turned in a number of unconvincing performances this season.

All three look vulnerable when faced with pace, which could see Nacho Novo figure in Smith's plans.

"I don't think we will need a lift," said the Spaniard, who scored a cracker of a consolation goal when on as a substitute against Sevilla.

"There is plenty of motivation for Old Firm games. It is a special game and everybody wants to play in them.

"Everyone from our side will go in to the game with a winning mentality and Celtic will be the same.

"We are at home and we will be positive and try to win the game."



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see also
Rangers 2-1 Celtic
04 Oct 09 |  Scottish Premier
Derby not new to Mowbray - Smith
03 Oct 09 |  Rangers
Mowbray guns for Old Firm victory
03 Oct 09 |  Celtic


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