Baldé refuses to bank on Old Firm win

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The Independent Football

Bobo Baldé is convinced that this weekend's Old Firm showdown will not decide the destination of the Scottish Premier League title.

Bobo Baldé is convinced that this weekend's Old Firm showdown will not decide the destination of the Scottish Premier League title.

The Celtic defender can help the champions go five points clear of Rangers with four games to play with victory at Ibrox on Sunday. But the 29-year-old would be more than satisfied with a share of the points in a championship race that may not be decided until the final day.

"Out of respect for all our other opponents I wouldn't say this was the crucial game that would decide the title," Baldé said. "This game is very big. At this stage of the season it is one of the biggest games of the year, like all other games, and it is very important.

"We need to have a good game. We would like to win, but it would be nice to come back with some points at least. It'll be very important for us because we're at the top, two points ahead and it would be easier for us to keep this distance and try and add some more points.

"That's why I think it's very important for us to come back with something from there.

"But it doesn't mean the league is over after this game, because I have a lot of respect for the other teams in Scotland."

His manager, Martin O'Neill, agrees and believes it would be "crazy" to think otherwise. He said: "It's massive but then so is every game that we have coming up at the moment.

"We're obviously going into this Old Firm game a couple of points in front but my own view point is that, regardless of the outcome, Sunday's game will decide absolutely nothing. Both ourselves and Rangers have another four extremely difficult games to face before anything can be determined and there are 12 more points to be fought for as well as the three that are up for grabs on Sunday.

"You see how tight it is at the moment - there's no room for manoeuvre whatsoever - and the two teams at the top are in a highly pressurised situation every time they step out."

"We'll be going there to win and we'll just need to focus on the game, play strongly and hope we get a bit of luck going for us."

The Rangers midfielder Thomas Buffel is hoping for an Old Firm win this weekend - with the help of a former Celtic hero. The Belgium international forged a close relationship with Pierre van Hooijdonk during their time together at Feyenoord and credits the Dutchman with helping him develop as a player.

Van Hooijdonk is not remembered fondly by the blue half of Glasgow. He established himself as a fans' favourite during his two years at Celtic, scoring three times in Old Firm derbies. And he returned to haunt Rangers two years ago with Feyenoord when his two goals played a part in sending the Ibrox side out of the Uefa Cup.

Buffel has revealed that the Netherlands international played an important part in his development as a footballer.

"I had a good relationship with Pierre in the team and away from football. We played a lot of games together and linked up well," he said. "I think people underestimate him as a player - he has a lot of good skills on the ground as well as in the air.

"If you play next to someone in a certain position for a long period, it's only natural that the communication and partnership develops. I learned a lot from him as I was developing into the player I am now.

"Of course, I still have much more to add to my game, but hopefully I can play well this weekend and help us get the win."

Buffel has played in two Old Firm derbies since his January move to Glasgow but both those games were at Celtic Park and he admits he has no idea what to expect at Ibrox this weekend.

He added: "I think it will be a great atmosphere and I'm very much looking forward to it. Our fans were fantastic at Parkhead but I can't imagine how it will be at Ibrox. I'm eager to find out."

Buffel insists that Rangers can handle the pressure. "It would be better if we were top of the table but we are not and must get on with that," he said. "We have to win to get above them and we are all very clear on what we must do during the match.

"There is a lot of pressure in this fixture but that is what makes it so special and it's our job to cope with it."