Old Firm derby win vital for Le Guen

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The Independent Football

Paul Le Guen has weathered an indifferent start as the Rangers manager but the first Old Firm derby of his tenure at Celtic Park at lunchtime today could change that at a stroke. Lose, and Rangers will go seven points adrift of their bitter rivals. The pressure will start to mount, as it did this early last season for his predecessor, Alex McLeish. Win, and the gap on the champions will be down to a point.

Le Guen acknowledged yesterday that Celtic are in better shape. He also admitted he is still unsure of his best team, something that seemed to afflict McLeish as he chopped, changed and stumbled. Yet Le Guen still sees today as a chance to confound form.

"Celtic are more sure of themselves than us, that is clear, because they are champions and they have started better," he said. "But there is nothing like a victory against Celtic to get confidence ... We will fight and we will do our best, that is our job, and the players must be ready to fight and do all they can."

Celtic will revert to a full-strength side after beating St Mirren 2-0 in the CIS Cup in midweek with a second-string side. Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Thomas Gravesen will make their derby debuts while Kenny Miller, once of Rangers, could become the first man since Mo Johnston in 1989 to appear for both Old Firm clubs against the other.

Rangers have injury and suspension worries, and will be without first-choice goalkeeper Lionel Letizi, midfielder Jérémy Clément and Ian Murray. Barry Ferguson is back in contention for a place but a start is not guaranteed for either the captain or Kris Boyd.

If fit, Dado Prso will be a certain starter. "He is a real leader, he has a real impact and he is an important player for us," Le Guen said.