Novo draws strength in defeat

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The Independent Online

Rangers' midweek defeat in the Old Firm derby has only bolstered their resolve in their chase for a quadruple of trophies, their Spanish striker Nacho Novo said yesterday.

Novo scored in the 2-1 loss at Parkhead, a result which let Celtic close the gap on Rangers to a point and leaves Celtic with the chance to go top this weekend while Rangers are occupied with a Scottish Cup semi-final.

The derby has left both clubs with injury and suspension problems this weekend. When Celtic face Aberdeen at home today they will be without Gary Caldwell (sent off on Wednesday) and Scott Brown (suspended), and have fitness doubts over Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, Lee Naylor, Aiden McGeady and Paul Hartley.

Rangers, who play St Johnstone at Hampden tomorrow, will be missing their goalkeeper Allan McGregor because of ligament damage to his ankle, Lee McCulloch, who has a fracture in his foot, and David Weir, suspended for fighting with Caldwell in the derby.

If Celtic beat Aberdeen they will move two points clear in the SPL, with four matches left, although Rangers have three games in hand and still control the title's fate.

Novo does not agree that Celtic now have a psychological edge. "It's the first game we have lost in six months but everyone here is strong and this makes us even stronger now," he said. "The most important thing for us is to keep going, work hard, and think of the semi-final. If we win every [league] game we are champions. We don't like to think that everything is done – we like to think game to game."

After the semi-final, Rangers play the home leg of their Uefa Cup semi-final against Fiorentina on Thursday, and then another SPL game at Celtic. "It will be tough but the most important thing is mentality – if you have a strong mentality you will not see any tiredness," Novo said.

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