Petrov stays at Celtic while Rangers look to keep Lovenkrands

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The Independent Football

As Celtic yesterday ended speculation over the future of Stilian Petrov by announcing that the Bulgarian international has extended his contract until 2009, Rangers said they were on the verge of retaining one of their own prized assets, striker Peter Lovenkrands.

Even a cloud on the horizon at Ibrox over Barry Ferguson, who suffered a broken nose in an accidental training-ground collision with his team-mate Marvin Andrews, appeared to come with a silver lining. Rangers' manager, Alex McLeish, said that Ferguson's imminent spell on the sidelines could actually benefit the club. They face a tough month of fixtures that include a Champions' League game with Villarreal and an Old Firm derby.

"Barry broke his nose and he is having a bit of trouble breathing," McLeish said. "We know that we need all our best players for this weekend because this is a really hard game and it's an important game. But we feel we can cover the loss of Ferguson." He added that the enforced break could mean Ferguson will be fresher for the big games ahead.

Rangers, 17 points behind the leaders Celtic, travel to Inverness tomorrow. Celtic host Dundee United today, while second-placed Hearts host an Edinburgh derby with third-placed Hibernian in the weekend's most intriguing SPL fixture.

Hearts, on 47 points, trail Celtic by 10 but still lead Hibs by six.

Today should give some indication whether Hearts deserve their favouritism for the second Champions' League spot, or whether second place in the table is actually going to be a competitive three-horse race between the Edinburgh sides and Rangers.

Petrov had been the subject of transfer speculation before and after his contract talks stalled earlier this month. Fulham were leading the chase among English clubs for his signature. Asked about a possible move to England yesterday, Petrov said: "My first option was to speak to Celtic, and if they offered me the deal I was looking for then I would be happy."

His manager, Gordon Strachan, said: "He sets a standard that I will be trying to get other people up to, in terms of ability, fitness, professionalism, intelligence to learn - all these things."

Back at Rangers, McLeish said that Lovenkrands is close to agreeing a new deal. The Dane had rejected a contract extension on reduced terms earlier in the season but has since scored 10 goals in eight games, forcing Rangers to rethink their offer.

The player will be out of contract in the summer, and Birmingham City were among clubs reportedly interested in buying him during the current transfer window.