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Horror tackle haunts Hink

Celtic defender Andreas Hinkel claims Kyle Lafferty could have broken his leg with a reckless challenge on him in the last Old Firm game at Parkhead in January.

The Rangers striker only picked up a yellow card from referee Steve Conroy for a studs-first challenge on the Germany international when many believed it should have been a straight red.

The game ended 1-1 but speaking ahead of the Old Firm derby at Ibrox on Sunday, Hinkel admitted it is not the result that he remembers most.

"The image of the Lafferty tackle isn't in my head, it's in my shin," he said.

"I still have it there and I can go on YouTube and see the challenge on a 'the worst tackles' clip.

"If I had planted my foot on the ground then I could easily have broken my leg.

"I have watched it again and it's a bad challenge as he wasn't going for the ball. I am a defender and I would never challenge like that, but you'd need to ask him if he was deliberately trying to hurt me.

"When he challenged me I turned away and I didn't see how bad it was, I just felt the pain. But it was an unusual tackle. I still don't understand it."

Added attention is on Sunday's referee Dougie McDonald after an unknown Celtic source let it be known the club were frustrated with major decisions they believe had gone against them this season -- including in the last two matches against Rangers.



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The former Stuttgart defender, though, played down any conspiracy theories, saying: "I haven't been in Scotland long enough to know if referees are against Celtic, and maybe the history shows that is the case but I don't know.

"But I don't believe referees are against Celtic as I don't like to make excuses.

"My experience from the time I have been here doesn't show that they are favouring Rangers or Celtic.

"I know there has been a lot of talk this week about the referees. Maybe there is now even more pressure on him, but the referee just needs to do his best.

"They are just human beings and there is more than enough pressure without talking about the referee, especially before an Old Firm game."

Hinkel insists he thrives on the pressure associated with Old Firm games and is looking forward to what is sure to be a typically tense encounter in Govan.

He said: "I always love these games as they are special.

"It's a pressure game but I enjoy that as life would be boring if there was no pressure.

"Can you imagine life without pressure, a life where everything was good? "You need pressure and you must handle it in a positive way.

"We have a word for it in Germany which means sado-masochist and it's about feeling no pain. Everyone watches these games, and not just in Scotland but around the world."

Meanwhile, Tony Mowbray has voiced his concerns about refereeing decisions to the Scottish Football Association but insists it was not through any worries over bias.



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The build-up to Sunday's Old Firm game at Ibrox has been dominated by discussions about match officials since an unknown Celtic source let it be known the club were frustrated with major decisions they believe had gone against them this season -- including in the last two matches against Rangers.

The leak led to a spat with the SFA whose president George Peat, in a scathing statement, questioned the courage of the Parkhead source and the timing of the story.

While the subtext to much of the fall-out has been about possible bias among match officials, Mowbray made it clear he was questioning their competence.

"I would never question the integrity of any referee or question any bias," the Celtic boss said.

"The game is becoming faster, particularly in Scotland.

"It is hurly-burly with long balls and they have a very hard job to keep up with play and so I understand the problems they have.

"It is just a bit frustrating for us all and I'm sure it is for the officials who make the wrong calls.

"But nobody has ever questioned they make them for any other reason that they have probably not been up with play or not been at the right angle or not been in the right position.

"I don't look for the rub of the green, just the correct decisions, whichever way they fall." he continued.

"Whatever level you play, whether it's Champions League finals or Sunday league kids' football, you hope the big decisions are correct."

The furore has served to intensify the scrutiny that will be on tomorrow's referee Dougie McDonald as the visitors seek to reduce the seven-point gap behind Scottish Premier League leaders Rangers.

Mowbray, though, denied the timing of the leak was perhaps with a view to handing Celtic an advantage and indeed was quick to distance himself from the source of the story.

"You can look at all the conspiracy theories you want)," he said. "The officials have a tough, tough job in any league in the world and I don't think they will carry any burden."

RANGERS v CELTIC, LIVE TOMORROW,

SKY SPORTS 1 (KO 12.30)


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