Rangers players shake off injuries in time for Celtic tie

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The Independent Football

The Rangers manager, Alex McLeish, is convinced his beleaguered players can cause a surprise and register their first victory at Celtic Park in almost four years after a head count in training revealed 17 extra players from the start of the week.

Last week's 2-0 defeat at Dundee United was one of the low points of the club's recent history, so lethargic was the performance. Its timing was hardly perfect either, a week before a season-saving Tennent's Scottish Cup tie at the home of their rampant rivals, Celtic, who have the league all but wrapped up.

But McLeish said that while the Murray Park training complex was virtually deserted on Monday, there was no shortage of bodies by the end of the week. He said: "The spirit is pretty decent in the dressing room and training has been very lively the last couple of days. I had six players in training on Monday and today I had 23. I wonder why?

"Some of the older players recover from games in different ways and there were one or two knocks and niggles - probably some of it manifesting from the head - but it was great to see the response towards the end of the week with everyone jumping off the treatment table."

Indeed, McLeish has a full squad to choose from for the first time he can remember, with Peter Lovenkrands, Chris Burke and Zura Khizanishvili all back following injury. McLeish has promised changes following the Tannadice debacle, which saw Mikel Arteta, Emerson and Christian Nerlinger taken off early. Top scorer Shota Arveladze is set to return having delayed knee surgery for the occasion but McLeish insisted it was no risk for him to play through the pain barrier.

Celtic, on the other hand, have plenty of selection problems, especially up front with John Hartson and Shaun Maloney out for the season and Chris Sutton a severe doubt with the ankle injury he suffered against Teplice on Wednesday.

The Celtic manager, Martin O'Neill, claims his side's striking worries means bookmakers should rethink his team's status as overwhelming favourites. "There will be a rush of money for Rangers, I'm quite sure of that," he said.