Sutton presses England claims with hat-trick as Kilmarnock are routed

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Chris Sutton was a potent weapon last season when Celtic were engaged in two different Battle of Britain ties, and how Alex McLeish must wish he had someone of that calibre to take with him to Old Trafford tomorrow. The Rangers manager's plans for the Champions' League encounter with Manchester United are hindered by a paucity of resources that must make him envy his rival, Martin O'Neill.

The previous weekend it was Henrik Larsson who collected a hat-trick. On Saturday it was Sutton. O'Neill even endorsed his player's claim to add to the solitary England cap he won at Blackburn Rovers by telling Sven Goran Eriksson to look at the man who tore his old club to shreds in last season's Uefa Cup contest, as easily as he did Kilmarnock.

"I'm pushing Chris for England because he is playing well enough for someone to have a look at," O'Neill said after the 5-0 rout at Rugby Park. That someone will be Tord Grip, who will watch Sutton in Celtic's Champions' League game at home to Anderlecht on Wednesday.

Sutton has taken over penalty duties at Celtic and he clinically converted two, after 19 and 90 minutes, when Stilian Petrov and Larsson were brought down - as well as profiting from a Larsson set-up and having a hand in John Hartson's goal. The only goal which did not bear his imprint was Shaun Maloney's sublime effort as Celtic scored four goals in the final 20 minutes.

Rangers remained five points behind the leaders with a 3-1 success over bottom club Partick Thistle that came at a price. Christian Nerlinger tore a calf muscle and is out of the Old Trafford match, while Fernando Ricksen twisted an ankle and is doubtful. It was hardly the news that McLeish - missing the influence of Ronald de Boer - needed.

His side's first league win since September came thanks to first-half goals from Mikel Arteta and Michael Mols before Arteta added a late penalty, though Partick's possession football looked far more composed than that of the champions. "We have to improve before the trip to Old Trafford, but we can win there," Arteta promised.

Andy Kirk scored two late goals for Hearts in the 3-1 win at home to Livingston ahead of the Edinburgh side's Uefa Cup second-round trip to Bordeaux on Thursday.

Craig Burley was sent off for fourth-placed Dundee, who were denied a victory at home to Hibernian by Derek Riordan's free-kick. Aberdeen slumped to a fifth defeat in six games, losing 0-3 at home to Motherwell.

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