Rangers boss Walter Smith has been dealt a double Old Firm blow with Algerian defender Madjid Bougherra and USA winger DaMarcus Beasley poised to miss the crucial clash with Celtic next weekend.
Bougherra was a member of the Rangers side that overcame the shock of going behind at Easter Road after just 12 seconds on Sunday before the Scottish Premier League leaders and reigning champions recovered to beat Hibernian 4-1. It had been thought Bougherra would be called up by Algeria for CAF African Cup of Nations duty after the clash with Celtic, who are four points behind Smith's men in second place, at Parkhead on 3 January.
But Smith believes Wednesday's match at home to Dundee United will be Bougherra's last before the centre-half joins up with the rest of the Algeria squad for the 10-31 January tournament in Angola. "That's the way it's looking at the present moment," said Smith.
Meanwhile, Beasley suffered a thigh injury in training that kept him out of the Hibs match. "He has a tear in his thigh," said Smith. "I'm not sure how long that will keep him out - two or three weeks maybe. It's disappointing in the sense that he is just back in the team and doing exceptionally well so it was disappointing it happened."
However, there was more encouraging news for Rangers in the form of strike duo Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller, who both scored against Hibernian as the Gers took their December goal tally to an impressive 19 in five games. "They are doing well in all aspects of their game for the team and they are still managing to get goals, which is a good thing for us," Smith said.
In the stands at Easter Road was new Scotland manager Craig Levein but former national team boss Smith was coy when asked if his strike duo should be lining up at international level. "That's up to Craig," he said.
Hibs had a dream start as Anthony Stokes scored the quickest-ever recorded Scottish Premier League goal but Miller's double, plus goals from Boyd and Nacho Novo saw Rangers recover in style. The home side remained third, despite this defeat, but were left eight points behind Rangers and Hibs manager John Hughes said his side were out of the title race, which would yet again be a two-horse race.
"Over the course of the game Rangers ran out convincing winners," Hughes said. "Did they have to do much to beat us? I think we beat ourselves at times. But I'm not going to be too hard on my boys. We got some answers today and possibly the biggest is that we can't match the Old Firm, which is disappointing."