Scotland

Rangers chase much-needed victory as Celtic pull away
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The Independent Football

Already five points behind Celtic in the Scottish Premier League, the Rangers manager, Alex McLeish, knows his team cannot afford any more setbacks.

Rangers today chase a first league win in four games as they host bottom-placed Partick Thistle, the only team yet to win in the league. "We must get back to winning ways," McLeish said. "The last two away games have not been up to Rangers' standards, and this is without taking anything away from the opposition. But we can only think positively as we try to get back on track in the league."

Rangers lost 1-0 to their arch rivals Celtic and followed that up with a pair of away draws. Even though Second Division Forfar is not top opposition, the midfielder Maurice Ross said Tuesday's 6-0 win in the League Cup helped restore confidence.

"The Forfar tie, no disrespect to them, was just the sort of game we needed to get back on track," Ross said. "Sometimes you can slip up in these fixtures, but everybody went about it in the right manner, and we won convincingly."

Rangers are without the forward Steven Thompson (knee) and the midfielder Ronald de Boer (calf).

Celtic travel to ninth-placed Kilmarnock with their manager, Martin O'Neill, admitting he was interested in the Motherwell midfielder Stephen Pearson. O'Neill would have to wait until January if he was to sign the player and it is rare for him to react to transfer speculation. "I made an enquiry to Terry [the Motherwell manager, Terry Butcher] and that's as far as that's gone," O'Neill said.

He might be able to call upon the returning duo of Jackie McNamara, who is over a hamstring strain, and Steve Guppy, who has recovered from a hernia operation. The midfielders Alan Thompson and Paul Lambert are out.

The Kilmarnock striker Kris Boyd aggravated a groin injury in the defeat at Hibernian last week and is rated doubtful for the visit of Celtic. But the forward Gary McSwegan may come through a late fitness test after a dead leg.

Hearts, in third place, who have not won at home since August, host Livingston, who have four successive clean sheets, including against Rangers last week.

Fabrizio Ravanelli continues his Scottish adventure with Dundee at home to Hibernian. The Italian striker scored a hat-trick in the 5-2 League Cup win over Clyde.

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