Scottish Football: Celtic fired up for Parkhead mission

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The Independent Online
LOU MACARI has no doubt his players will have 'a bit of fire in their bellies' for today's Old Firm match at Parkhead. In his first game as Celtic manager two months ago, Macari was struck by his new team's courage when they fought back from a goal down to beat Rangers 2-1.

Another victory will lift Celtic ahead of Rangers on goal difference in a weather-hit Premier Division programme - in which only two matches are still going ahead.

'If it comes down to a scrap or a bit of a war out there I would quite fancy us to win,' Macari said. 'First and foremost, an Old Firm game is a physical battle. I need a bit of fire in the players' bellies and I am confident I have the 11 lads who can give us what's needed.'

Macari's faith is based on the fact that Celtic are just three points behind the leaders, Aberdeen, with a game in hand, and have the motivation of going above Rangers. 'A win would push us right into contention and be a real boost for the players, who might actually feel that we could win something,' Macari said.

However, with Aberdeen's game at Dundee postponed until 11 January, Rangers can regain the leadership by recording their third successive New Year win at Parkhead. However, they could be without Stuart McCall and Gordon Durie, who collected injuries against Hearts on Monday, and already have Ally McCoist, Andy Goram, Dave McPherson, Ian Durrant and David Robertson out of action. Richard Gough may return following a groin injury to shore up a leaking defence.

The Rangers manager, Walter Smith, said: 'It would be bonus to get him back. We need everyone we can get, the way things have gone.' By contrast Celtic have a full complement to choose from and have yet to conceded a goal at Parkhead under Macari.

Third-placed Motherwell can join Aberdeen on 31 points if they win at Kilmarnock. 'It's a great chance to keep things going, especially with the Old Firm in opposition and Aberdeen out of action,' Tommy McLean, the Motherwell manager, said.

Brian Martin, Steve Kirk and Phil O'Donnell have recovered from throat infections and are in contention, while Kilmarnock are without their suspended strikers, Bobby Williamson and Tom Brown.

Dick Donald, the Aberdeen chairman, has died at the age of 82 after a long illness. Donald had been associated with the Pittodrie club for 65 years as player, director, and then chairman since 1971.

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