Tuesday 26 March 2019

Be careful what you wish for, Rodgers warns Rangers

Celtic's Brendan Rodgers Photo: PA
Celtic's Brendan Rodgers Photo: PA

Roddy Forsyth

Rangers believe they will prevail against Celtic in tomorrow's Old Firm derby at Ibrox, according to Brendan Rodgers.

Ahead of an encounter that could enable Rangers to close the gap on their greatest rivals to three points, the Celtic manager addressed what were termed "confident noises" supposedly emanating from the other side of the city.

"It tells you they expect to win, and their supporters expect them to win, but we'll do our talking on the pitch," Rodgers said. "We also respect our opposition and we'll focus on what we're trying to do."

On being told that the Rangers players had cheered in the dressing-room after their Scottish Cup quarter-final victory over Falkirk when they heard that they had drawn Celtic in the semi-finals, Rodgers said: "Be careful what you wish for."

Graeme Murty, meanwhile, was not inclined to fuel talk of a meaningful campaign in the event of a Rangers win in front of their own fans.

"It would make us start to say, 'do you know what, we're a good team'. I honestly don't know if us winning would mean there is a title race, but until it's mathematically impossible we're up there," the Rangers manager said.

"Celtic have done it. They are top of the league. We're still chasing them and whether we chase them down or not won't just be on this one game - it will be on the games after it, so we have to make sure that what we do, from Sunday, is put ourselves in as good a position as possible but we have to continue our improvement, because we're not the finished article as yet."

In these circumstances, it is comforting for the underdogs to evoke some totemic occasion of past superiority and, for this occasion, Rangers paraded Gregory Vignal, their former full-back.

The Frenchman is back with the club as a youth coach but is also in the record books as the man who netted the 400th league goal scored by Rangers against Celtic, in a 2-0 away win in 2005.

That Vignal did so while playing with a serious injury was a detail that only came to light when he recollected the occasion.

"People told me not to play the game as I had a broken arm but I said to the boss (Alex McLeish), 'I have to play, we have to win'. It was such an emotional day," Vignal said. "The situation now is not the same. The club has come back after five years. We have to close the gap. It is a new project.

"This is the right time for us to win. If we win on Sunday we will be close to Celtic. We are not under pressure, Celtic are under pressure. They know if they lose against us on Sunday the gap will be small."

Rodgers retorted: "We want to win but Rangers have to win."

There are question marks over the strikers on both sides. Celtic's Moussa Dembele, touted as a likely £20 million export to England prior to the January transfer window, seemed to have been affected by the sales talk but has looked more like his previous self lately and scored twice against Morton in last weekend's quarter-finals.

Rangers' January acquisition, Jason Cummings, scored three in the 4-1 home win against Falkirk, but the focus will be on Alfredo Morelos, if he gets a start.

The 21-year-old Colombian failed to take two fine chances in the most recent Old Firm collision, the goalless draw at Celtic Park on December 30, and looked far from gruntled at having no share in the plunder offered by the Falkirk defence.

  • Rangers v Celtic, Live, tomorrow, Sky Sports, 12.0

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