Scottish Football: Celtic's hunger

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The Independent Online
WITH Rangers having increased their hold on the Premier Division title with their midweek win at Aberdeen, the Tennents Scottish Cup has become the only realistic route to success for the rest of the country's elite, writes Rupert Metcalf.

Celtic, above all others, are in desperate need of a taste of champagne in silver. Without a trophy since winning the Cup in 1989, they face a tricky fourth-round tie at Falkirk today.

The Bairns have scored six goals in two League games against the Parkhead side this term but have lost both - 5-4 and 3-2 - after being 2-0 ahead each time. 'We don't want to put ourselves in that position again,' Liam Brady, the Celtic manager, said. He keeps the side which beat St Johnstone 5-1 on Wednesday.

Richard Gough, the Rangers captain, is included in the squad for the trip to Ayr United after recovering from a thigh injury, but he is by no means sure of a starting place. Oleg Kuznetsov, the former Soviet international defender, is also called up.

Ayr, of the First Division, are managed by George Burley, the former Ipswich full-back. 'Strictly on paper, Rangers should win about 10-0 but that rarely happens in the Cup. If anything, it's the competition which produces the most unexpected results,' he said. 'It's up to us to make home advantage pay off by putting them under pressure and trying to force a mistake.'

Tomorrow, Aberdeen and Dundee United meet at Pittodrie with the visitors hoping to extend their run of four successive wins and no goals conceded in their last four trips north. The former Blackburn midfielder, Lee Richardson, should be fit for Aberdeen, but United are without the suspended Jim McInally.