Football: Weary Rangers reach last lap in title race

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FOR several weeks, if not months, the destination of the Premier Division title has not been in serious doubt. The only question to be answered was when, rather than if, Rangers would secure their fifth successive championship. It could - at last - all be settled today: if Rangers beat Partick Thistle at Ibrox and Aberdeen drop a point against Heart of Midlothian at Pittodrie, the celebrations can begin for real in Glasgow's East End.

'We want to win it as fast as possible, and it would be nice to clinch the championship at Ibrox,' Mark Hateley, the Rangers striker, said. However, Walter Smith's team have several injury problems to cope with. Pieter Huistra (thigh), Stuart McCall (knee) and Ian Durrant (shin) all collected knocks in their midweek win over Hearts.

Alexei Mikhailichenko is a definite absentee and is unlikely to be available to face CSKA Moscow in Wednesday's crucial European Champions' League game. David Robertson is in the same situation. However, Ally McCoist, Andy Goram and Dave McPherson are on the road to recovery and may return today.

There is far more real competition at the bottom of the Premier Division, and at the top of the First. Falkirk and Airdrie, both on 26 points, currently occupy the relegation positions in the Premier, with Motherwell (28) and Dundee (29) too close for comfort. The latter two sides meet at Fir Park, while Falkirk entertain St Johnstone and Airdrie travel to Dundee United.

Kilmarnock lost some ground in their quest to join Raith Rovers in the Premier next term when they were held to a draw at Meadowbank on Wednesday, but they should collect maximum points at home to Stirling Albion. Second-placed Dunfermline, two points ahead of Kilmarnock, entertain St Mirren.