Rangers seek to hammer home title advantage
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Rangers take on Hearts at Ibrox on Saturday knowing the destiny of the Scottish Premier League now rests in their own hands after Old Firm rivals Celtic handed them the initiative.

Celtic's 3-2 defeat to Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Wednesday means Rangers are one point better off than their rivals and just three wins away from claiming their third consecutive championship. The visit of Hearts is the first of two home games for Walter Smith's side and striker Steven Naismith knows Rangers, who claimed a 5-0 win over Motherwell last weekend, will have to be at their best to beat third-placed Hearts.

"If we can perform as well as we did in stages last weekend for the full 90 minutes then we should be fine," the Scotland international, who netted a dramatic last minute winner between the sides in November, said. "Hearts are difficult opponents and we will have to play extremely well to beat them, but we are full of confidence at the moment and fancy our chances of winning."

Rangers will be without long-term absentees Kirk Broadfoot, Kyle Bartley and Vladimir Weiss but Lee McCulloch could be in line for a place in the squad. Hearts manager Jim Jefferies knows his side, who also face Celtic at Tynecastle on Wednesday, could have a big say in the destination of the title.

And he said his side would try and claim points off both sides of the Old Firm in a bid to claim a European spot. "If we do get a result on Saturday I hope we can match it on Wednesday or there will be all these conspiracy theories," said Jefferies.

"We'll be making it as difficult for them both as possible. It will be interesting. The Old Firm managers themselves said after the last Old Firm game that there will be still some twists and turns - we saw one against Inverness and hopefully we can be included in those twists and turns."

The Old Firm managers themselves said after the last Old Firm game that there will be still some twists and turns - we saw one against Inverness and hopefully we can be included in those twists and turns.
Hearts coach Jim Jeffries ahead of the weekend match against Rangers

Celtic's charge to the title was derailed by Inverness and they must now rely on other results if Neil Lennon is to lift the Scottish Premier League trophy in his first season in charge of the Hoops. Their hopes were dealt another major blow with the news that influential midfielder Beram Kayal will miss the rest of the season after he fractured his wrist in the 3-2 loss to join Glenn Loovens and Cha Du-Ri on the sidelines.

However striker Daryl Murphy has not given up on clinching the championship, having been in a similar situation with former club Sunderland.  "When I was at Sunderland we won the league on the last day of the season at Luton and we needed a favour to do it, so I'll never give up hope after that experience," the Irish striker said.

"It's not impossible. It can easily be done. I've done it, so hopefully I can do it again. We're disappointed but we've got three games left to turn it round. Hopefully we can win them and see what happens from there. We'd like to think teams can do to Rangers what Inverness did to us but we just have to concentrate on ourselves now and whatever happens will happen."

Hamilton need a win against Hibernian if they are to catch St Mirren in their bid to avoid the drop to Division One. After the high of beating Celtic on Wednesday, Inverness host St Mirren while Dundee United continue their quest to catch Hearts when they take on Motherwell at Tannadice.