Strachan fearful of Old Firm wobble

By Ronnie Esplin
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The Independent Football

Gordon Strachan, the Celtic manager, admits he is dreading a defeat in tomorrow's Old Firm derby at Celtic Park. Celtic are two points clear of Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premier League table, having seen a seven-point lead whittled away in recent weeks.

Strachan claims another home derby defeat, which would take Walter Smith's men to the top of the SPL, would not decide the destination of the title. "It's a huge game," Strachan said. "You look forward to it; there's no doubt about that but you dread, you just dread, getting beaten. In saying that, I think it's been proved in the last couple of games that it doesn't determine where trophies go. The two teams are making mistakes elsewhere.

"Rangers have picked up more points than us [recently]," Strachan added, "while we have not done enough to keep seven points ahead. So we only have ourselves to blame."

The midfielder Shaun Maloney is a major doubt with a recurrence of his hamstring problem, but his captain Stephen McManus has recovered from a knee injury.

For Rangers, the highly rated 17-year-old attacking midfielder John Fleck could make his Old Firm debut after Rangers manager Smith, claimed the youngster was ready for his first taste of the famous fixture. "He wants to play and he has wanted to play in all the games," Smith said. "In his own mind, he is ready to play in these games.

"There is no other reason – other than what I think is the right thing to do in terms of our overall team – why he shouldn't be. He has an all-round ability to play the game."