Celtic look set to receive the perfect festive boost with news that goalkeeper Artur Boruc is ready to play against Gretna on Saturday. The Polish international has been out since undergoing knee surgery on 6 December, but he has now trained all week with no adverse reaction.
And with Celtic playing Rangers next Wednesday in what could be a vital match in this season's Scottish Premier League title race, a return against the side sitting bottom of the table would be perfect preparation for Boruc. Back-up goalkeeper Mark Brown has been between the sticks in the Pole's absence and although he kept a clean sheet on Boxing Day, as Celtic won 2-0 at Dundee United, the Parkhead club will be keen to have their number one keeper back.
Since Boruc has been out Celtic have drawn 1-1 at home to St Mirren, won 4-0 against Falkirk, lost 3-2 at Inverness Caledonian Thistle and drawn 1-1 at home to Hibernian, before beating United on Wednesday. These results have allowed Rangers to close to within two points of the champions having played two games less.
Also likely to be playing for Celtic against Gretna will be
Guinean centre-half Bobo Balde, who played his first game in a year
on Wednesday and helped Gordon Strachan's side record their
first clean sheet in 35 away games.
While a home victory against the Scottish Borders side would appear to be a formality for Celtic, it may not be that straightforward. Although Gretna are rooted to the bottom of the Scottish Premier League with only ten points from 18 games, they are unbeaten in their last three matches - drawing with Kilmarnock and Aberdeen, and defeating Dundee United.
In October they also came within four minutes of defeating Celtic, with late goals from New Zealand striker Chris Killen and Australian international Scott McDonald cancelling out Uruguayan Fabian Yantorno's opener.
Rangers, meanwhile, will have the chance to go top of the table, for a few hours at least, when they play managerless Hibs at Easter Road earlier on Saturday. However, although John Collins' resignation as coach was a blow to the Edinburgh side, they will be confident of taking something from the game having already defeated both sides of the Old Firm this season.
Battle for bronze
Third-placed Motherwell play host to the side directly beneath them in the table, Dundee United. With only three points separating the teams, and both level on goal difference, they could swap positions on Saturday.
However, according to Motherwell manager Mark McGhee they are both unlikely to catch Celtic or Rangers after his side lost 3-1 at Ibrox on Boxing Day. He said: "We needed to win or at least draw with Rangers to have a chance of splitting the Old Firm this season.
"Rangers are now six points ahead of us with two games in hand and realistically we're not going to catch them, so the rest of the chasing pack are now playing for third place."
Hearts assistant first-team coach Stephen Frail has admitted the Tynecastle team are now involved in a relegation battle after they lost 1-0 at home to St Mirren to drop to third bottom. On Saturday they are away to an on-form Falkirk side who have moved up to seventh place.