Ferguson returns to guide Rangers

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The Independent Online

Only one team in global football history has won a quadruple of their nation's top-tier league plus both domestic cups plus major continental silverware in the same season. That was Celtic, in 1967, and in Rangers' quest to match the feat – still on course after Thursday's Uefa Cup semi-final first leg 0-0 draw with Fiorentina at Ibrox – their Glasgow rivals present the next hurdle in tomorrow lunchtime's last Old Firm derby of the season.

Celtic start the weekend two points clear of Rangers in the Scottish Premier League. Rangers have three games in hand and, until tomorrow at least, remain favourites for the title. Their captain, Barry Ferguson, returns from suspension, but his fellow central midfielder Kevin Thomson is banned, as is centre-half Carlos Cuellar, while five others who would have been involved tomorrow are injured.

Progress on four fronts has led to severe fixture congestion, and even though the SPL has agreed to rejig the schedule slightly, depending on Rangers reaching the Uefa Cup final, Walter Smith's depleted team will still soon be required to play four games in eight days. Smith preferred not to dwell on that yesterday, insisting the prospect of making history can inspire.

"It's a little bit disappointing that the league have decided to make a team play four times in eight days but there's not a great deal we can do with it," he said. "But we have got to get on with it, there is no point in dwelling on it. I don't think the players need anything else to motivate them. The motivation to win is enough and hopefully that will drive us forward."

Smith's counterpart, Gordon Strachan, whose future at Parkhead remains somewhat in doubt – if only because he could yet choose to walk away from the club in the summer – says Celtic must win tomorrow to keep their title race alive, dismissing notions that fatigue or injuries will derail Rangers' quest.

"I would say we have to win again," said Strachan, who finally beat Smith's Rangers at the fifth time of asking earlier this month. "It would make it interesting for everybody. What we have to do is to win – to make ourselves happy and our fans happy."

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