Football: Scottish PrevieW - Injuries stifle Celtic

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The Independent Online
CELTIC ARE struggling with an extensive injury list ahead of tomorrow's Old Firm derby at Celtic Park, which could see Rangers crowned as champions if they win. Celtic may be without their Scottish international midfield trio of Paul Lambert, Craig Burley and Jackie McNamara, putting even more responsibility on their prolific striker, Henrik Larsson, to stop Rangers from obtaining the win which would put them 10 points clear with only three games remaining.

It was no coincidence that when Larsson failed to score last Saturday, Celtic slipped to a costly defeat at St Johnstone. That handed the initiative to Rangers, but the 27-year-old Swede has scored three times in Old Firm matches this season and he knows victory for Celtic would close the gap to four points again and offer a slight hope. "We need to win this one otherwise we are finished," Larsson said yesterday. "The hope is always there for us. It is going to be difficult, of course, but you can't stop hoping."

Rangers are still smarting from the memory of their last trip across the city, when Celtic routed them 5-1 last November and Larsson scored twice.

"It's always nice to beat Rangers," he said. "Old Firm games are special because the interest in them is huge. The last time at Celtic Park was a great result, but winning 1-0 this time would be fine."

Larsson's Swedish team-mate, Johan Mjallby, could also miss the match. A muscle strain forced him to pull out of his country's friendly defeat by the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on Wednesday.

Rangers have injury worries over their midfielder Jorg Albertz and the Scotland winger Neil McCann, who both have toe injuries. However, the latest addition to the Ibrox league of nations encounter, the United States midfielder Claudio Reyna, should make his Old Firm debut.

With the bottom two Premier League clubs, Dunfermline and Hearts, facing each other at Tynecastle on Monday evening, Dundee United have the chance to clamber nearer safety when they entertain Dundee in the Tayside derby at Tannadice today.