Scottish Football: Macari retains optimism despite deepening crisis

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The Independent Online
LAST MONTH Celtic were eagerly anticipating a New Year's Day encounter with Rangers, which could have taken them to the top of the Premier Division. Today, though, the Parkhead side meet Raith Rovers in Kirkcaldy wondering where it all went wrong.

Six matches in January produced four defeats and two draws. Celtic travel to Starks Park in fifth place in the table, six points behind Rangers and Aberdeen, and with a host of problems on the playing front. The Polish defender, Dariusz Wdowczyk, hurt in the defeat by Rangers on 1 January, could be out for the rest of the season with a slipped disc.

There are plusses. Celtic have agreed to pay Sheffield United pounds 350,000 for the former Aberdeen and Middlesbrough midfield player, Willie Falconer. Charlie Nicholas, who missed the cup defeat because of illness, is back in training, while Lee Martin returns to the squad after being ineligible last weekend. Macari refuses to be downcast. 'Last week was disappointing but not a disaster,' he said. 'It's not the end for Celtic.'

Even more depressing for Celtic is the news that Rangers are at last approaching full-strength. Andy Goram, Ally McCoist, Duncan Ferguson and Dave McPherson all played for the reserves in midweek and are preparing for returns in the near future. None of the quartet will figure against Partick Thistle at Ibrox.

The Ibrox game will be a tough debut for Thistle's new signing, Bobby Barnes, who has moved to Scotland on a free transfer from Peterborough. Motherwell, in third place a point behind the top two, face a tricky task at home to a Hearts side battling to escape relegation.

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