Wednesday 29 March 2017

No panic yet as Samaras backs Bhoys to turn title race around

Ewing Grahame

CELTIC face the prospect of falling 12 points behind and at least 18 goals worse off than their Old Firm rivals should Rangers conform to betting orthodoxy and defeat Hearts at Ibrox today.

Even so, striker Georgios Samaras is adamant that the panic button will not be pressed by anyone at Parkhead just yet and he dismissed talk that such an outcome at Ibrox would increase the pressure on Tony Mowbray's side to beat St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park tomorrow.

After dropping seven points in their last four fixtures, however, Celtic's margin for error is rapidly disappearing.

"There is no pressure," said the 24-year-old Greek international. "There are so many games left and so many points still to play for. I think there is plenty of time to close the gap and the most important thing is that we are feeling good about ourselves."

Samaras, who has seven goals from his last nine outings, will -- in the absence of leading scorer Scott McDonald -- partner Marc-Antoine Fortuné, who has just five goals from 19 appearances since his £3.8m move in the summer.

Again, though, he sees no desperate need to increase their scoring rate as long as the results go their way.

"It doesn't matter if you win 5-0 or 3-0, you still only win three points," he said. "The last game of the season is so far away and to talk about goal difference is theoretical.

"Rangers are ahead just now but no team can expect to remain unbeaten from now until the end of the season.

"Of course they're going to drop points and it will be then up to us to take advantage. When I came here in January 2008 we were seven points behind and this time last year we were seven points in front.

"In each case the team who was behind went on to win the title and now we have a similar scenario. That proves that you must stay focused until the very last day and we have characters in our dressing-room who can make the difference."

Refuses

Samaras also refuses to accept that Celtic have an advantage in having the wherewithal to buy new players while Rangers are unable to enter the transfer market and are now considered to be a selling club.

"I don't think that, because they can't buy players, that they won't win the title. The team with the clearest minds, the team that is more focused and the team which wants it the most will be champions," he said.

Mowbray, meanwhile, continued his protest against the tabloid article which claimed that the manager had told Scotland midfielder Scott Brown he had no future at the club.

Some managers adopt a siege mentality in order to forge, or enhance, a togetherness among his players but Mowbray is in danger of being consumed by paranoia. When he was asked if the speculation concerning Brown would bring about a united front, he replied: "I think the players who have been here for a while understand how Scottish football works and how the media works. I don't think there's anything new to be gained: I think it's been going on for a long time.

"I try to understand how the media works and I know you gentlemen have a job to do and you've got to fill newspapers and sometimes, when there are no stories, as previously this week, you make them up.

"There are some good journalists in Scotland and some I enjoy speaking with but when something is written that's totally wrong I have to come out and say so."

Club captain Stephen McManus will miss tomorrow's match with a calf injury. (© Daily Telegraph, London).

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