Football: Old Firm minds on the task in hand

Scottish Football
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The Independent Online
Rangers and Celtic meet in the second leg of the Old Firm double header next Wednesday, but both are anxious to concentrate on today's opponents. Rangers travel to Aberdeen, while Celtic face Motherwell at Parkhead.

The precarious position of both struggling clubs suggests straightforward victories for the Old Firm sides, but neither Walter Smith nor Wim Jansen's players want to be complacent.

Celtic midfielder Andreas Thom has said that the overall standard of this season's Premier Division is the highest he can remember and he includes bottom club Motherwell in that analysis. Alex McLeish's side have lost out twice to Celtic already this campaign, but on each occasion it was only by the odd goal, with Motherwell leading 2-1 at Fir Park before a late Bhoys' revival.

Thom said: "All our concentration at the moment is towards facing Motherwell tomorrow, only after that can we talk about Rangers again."

Despite coming out on top against Celtic courtesy of Richard Gough's strike at Ibrox last week, the same caution is echoed by the Rangers defender Joachim Bjorklund. He said: "First there is an important trip to Aberdeen and we must not look any further forward than that."

Aberdeen will be managed for the first and perhaps last time by the former Tottenham manager Keith Burkinshaw. Burkinshaw, the director of football, has stepped in on a caretaker basis while the club find a replacement for Roy Aitken, sacked on Monday after his side had recorded just two wins from 12 games this season.

Elsewhere, leaders Hearts will bid to continue their fine run of form against St Johnstone at Tynecastle where title talk is firmly discouraged by the manager Jim Jefferies. Dundee United will aim for a fifth consecutive league win when they face Kilmarnock at Rugby Park, while Dunfermline and Hibernian meet at East End Park.