Strachan is 'one game from crisis'

Celtic, with 13 points, lie in second place this morning behind Hearts, who have 18, but are only ahead of the third-placed Kilmarnock and fourth-placed Hibs on goal difference.

Whatever Hearts do at Inverness today they will remain top while, depending on results elsewhere, Celtic could finish the weekend anywhere from second to fifth.

Rangers, who beat Porto 3-2 on Tuesday in the Champions' League but have been in limp domestic form and start the day in fifth, host Kilmarnock, whose only defeat so far came on the opening day against Hearts.

"These things take a long time," Strachan said yesterday, speaking about his rebuilding plan at Parkhead. "When Alex Ferguson took over at Manchester United, it was four years before they started to get going.

"At Celtic you only get four days which is the nature of the beast. You have to get on with it but I'm enjoying it."

He added that Celtic's early exit from Europe had at least provided a "silver lining" of being able to spend more time working with his players towards reclaiming the Scottish Premiership League title.

Hibs have had no luxury of ample time to prepare for tomorrow, having spent Thursday evening battling out a 0-0 Uefa Cup draw against Dnipro and then yesterday recovering.

They will be without the defender Gary Smith and the midfielder Scott Brown tomorrow because of injuries sustained on Thursday, although their in-form Northern Ireland striker Ivan Sproule should certainly play a role, maybe even from the start.

Hibs held Celtic 2-2 in their corresponding meeting a year ago, and the last time they faced Celtic, in Glasgow in April, Sproule scored their crucial second goal in a 3-1 victory. He also scored the hat-trick that sank Rangers at Ibrox recently and appeared for his country as they defeated England.

Another of the season's prolific players, Hearts' Rudi Skacel, has scored in every league game so far, and a goal at Inverness for the 26-year-old Czech midfielder would set a record for scoring in the most consecutive matches at the start of an SPL season.

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