Football: Mowbray ready to bolster Celtic rearguard: Rupert Metcalf looks at the best of today's Scottish football league programme

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The Independent Online
ANY lingering traces of early season neighbourliness and good humour will be swept way when this afternoon's Premier Division programme kicks off. The main event, at Ibrox Park, is the first of the campaign's four Rangers against Celtic encounters, with a sideshow down the M8 in Edinburgh: Hibernian versus Hearts.

Liam Brady, the Celtic manager, will have the rare pleasure of entering an Old Firm game looking down on the rest of the League from the top of the table. However, both sides have injury problems - and Brady has the biggest headaches. Pat Bonner, the Republic of Ireland goalkeeper, may make his first appearance for nine months if Gordon Marshall's neck strain does not improve.

Tony Mowbray, the rugged former Middlesbrough man, suffered a midweek head wound against Dundee, but Brady is ready to patch him up and thrust him in to the fray. 'I'm sure Tony will be all right. He's that type of guy,' the manager said. But with two other defenders - Gary Gillespie and Dariusz Wdowczyk - ruled out, Brady might wish he could still call on Derek Whyte and Chris Morris, sold to Middlesbrough last week.

'Rangers got away from us last season, and even with an unbeaten run of 16 games we couldn't get near them again,' Brady said. 'It's very important we don't let that happen again. These matches are traditionally very tense and are important for all sorts of reasons. For a start, it can ruin your life for a few days when you lose]'

Walter Smith, Brady's opposite number at Rangers, has doubts over two of his midfield players: Stuart McCall, who suffered an ankle injury in the 5-0 stroll at Stranraer on Wednesday, and Trevor Steven, who missed that game.

Hibernian, who failed to beat their Edinburgh rivals, Hearts, in four meetings last season, are hardly in peak form. They were knocked out of the Skol Cup, which they hold, by First Division Kilmarnock on Tuesday, after which Alex Miller, their manager, said: 'We have to take a hard look at ourselves after that performance. If the players don't respond, changes will have to be made.'

Miller's player-coach, Murdo Macleod, has a hamstring strain, while Hearts have doubts over Scott Crabbe and Derek Ferguson.

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