Old Firm lose strikers for Champions League ties

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The Independent Football

Rangers and Celtic will both be a striker light for this week's pivotal Champions League qualifying matches, but the two Glasgow clubs should start their respective games – at Red Star Belgrade tomorrow and at Parkhead against Spartak Moscow on Wednesday – with renewed confidence after domestic wins on Saturday.

Rangers kept their 100 per cent Scottish Premier League record after four games with a 2-1 win over Kilmarnock on Saturday, but their Gabonese forward, Daniel Cousin, was substituted at half-time with a calf injury and is not expected to play in the Serbian capital.

Against Kilmarnock, DaMarcus Beasley gave Rangers the lead, which was cancelled out by Danny Invincibile, but the visitors snatched victory after Jean-Claude Darcheville had buried a loose ball from close range with 15 minutes left.

"Daniel took a kick on the calf and there is a bit of swelling," said the Rangers manager, Walter Smith, of his injured striker. "At the moment we would have to say he is a doubt."

Rangers hold a 1-0 advantage over Red Star after the first leg of the third qualifying round for Europe's elite competition.

Celtic remain two points behind Rangers in the league after a 5-0 home demolition of a sorry Heart of Midlothian side on Saturday. Hearts look a pale, shaky shadow of the team which split the Old Firm in the table just 15 months ago.

Shunsuke Nakamura gave the champions a ninth-minute lead, via Christophe Berra's arm, and Massimo Donati made it 2-0.

Scott Brown and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink scored within minutes around the hour mark for 4-0 and Nakamura curled in the fifth goal late on to complete the rout.

Kenny Miller played no part in the win after aggravating an injury on international duty in midweek, and the Scotland striker will also miss out as Celtic look to convert a 1-1 first-leg scoreline against Spartak Moscow into an aggregate victory and a lucrative place in the group phase of the Champions League.

"Kenny will be out for a wee while," said Celtic's manager, Gordon Strachan, who at least has attacking options in Hesselink and Scott McDonald, who both started on Saturday, and in Chris Killen and Maciej Zurawski, who were both given run-outs as substitutes.

Motherwell secured a third Scottish Premier League win in four matches by coming from behind to beat Gretna 2-1, also on Saturday. Craig Brewster bade farewell to Aberdeen with two goals in a 3-3 draw at Hibernian ahead of his expected appointment as manager of pointless Inverness, who lost 3-0 at home to Dundee United.

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