Klos knee injury dents Rangers' title hopes

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The Independent Football

Celtic and Rangers do not meet for another three weeks, but there was a growing feeling around Glasgow yesterday that the destination of the Scottish Premier League title may have been decided in a quiet corner of the city with no one around to watch.

Celtic and Rangers do not meet for another three weeks, but there was a growing feeling around Glasgow yesterday that the destination of the Scottish Premier League title may have been decided in a quiet corner of the city with no one around to watch.

The cruciate ligament injury suffered by Stefan Klos in training brought the goalkeeper's season to an abrupt end - and possibly Rangers' hopes of glory, too. The talisman German, who is also club captain, will leave a void that is unlikely to be filled, just as Henrik Larsson did when his broken leg wrecked Celtic's ambitions in 1999-2000.

Klos was dubbed "Superman" by Alex McLeish because of his ability to withstand injury and his heroics against Celtic. Yet he fell victim to a freak accident on Thursday when he caught his studs in the manicured turf of Rangers' training complex in a leafy suburb.

McLeish does not know if he will be able to get an experienced replacement in before the Old Firm encounter at Parkhead on 20 February, and against Livingston today he will have to turn to 22-year-old Allan McGregor, who has just returned from a loan spell at St Johnstone.

"Stefan is a fantastic goalkeeper and has a marvellous presence," McLeish reflected. "Obviously, it is a blow for Rangers but I am more disappointed for Stefan, whom we tend to think of as Superman, because he doesn't get injured. I will only be able to tell you how big a blow it is at the end of the season if we don't win the title. But it doesn't mean that because we have lost Stefan we can't win the league.

"It was a totally innocuous incident but one that I have seen many times causing this type of injury. The only blessing is that I allowed Allan McGregor to go on loan to get experience because he had spent too long on the bench."

The loss of Klos is also compounded by the failure to bring Barry Ferguson back to Ibrox after Blackburn Rovers rejected a second bid of £4m for the Scotland captain.

However, McLeish's counterpart, Martin O'Neill insisted that the title balance has not tilted towards his team.

"Klos has been absolutely sensational for Rangers in the four and a half years I've been here," the Celtic manager said. "Obviously, he is a key player to Rangers and if he's out for some considerable time, then that's a blow to them but like anything else that isn't insurmountable."

O'Neill, whose team go to Kilmarnock tomorrow, is still in negotiations with the Liverpool defender, Stéphane Henchoz, and Bill Tchato of Kaiserslautern, and may make an increased bid for the Hearts midfielder Paul Hartley.

Mark Burchill, a former Celtic striker, joined Hearts yesterday until the end of the season after being released by Portsmouth.

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