Old Firm anticipate another intense clash
Celtic and Rangers insisted on Monday that their rivalry remains as intense as ever despite the two Old Firm rivals having to face each other seven times this season.
Sunday's Scottish Cup fifth round 2-2 draw at Ibrox guaranteed another match between the Glasgow giants with a Scottish Premier League fixture at Parkhead on 20 February to come before the Cup replay on 2 March and the League Cup final three weeks later.
Celtic boss Neil Lennon joked that it would be "absolute torture" to face Rangers so many times. "I think sometimes it can be over-egged a bit but it's just the way the fixtures have turned out," Lennon added. "These are the games you want to play in when you're involved with the Old Firm. These are the games that define you."
Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist said the number of times the sides would clash wouldn't take the shine off the fixture. "It's amazing and we'll get the same hype before it and we'll be sitting here talking here after it because, and I don't care what anyone says, they're wonderful occasions," he said. "I've been lucky enough to be involved in certainly a lot more than most and I still excited and thrilled to bits about them."
Lennon praised the spirit of his Celtic side as they twice came from behind to seal a 2-2 draw with Rangers in Sunday's fiercely-contested tie at Ibrox. The Hoops found themselves trailing to a third-minute goal from Jamie Ness before Kris Commons levelled the scores in the 16th minute of his Old Firm debut.
Celtic's task became harder in the 38th minute when keeper Fraser Forster was ordered off for bringing down Steven Naismith in the box and Steven Whittaker slammed home the resultant penalty past substitute keeper Lukasz Zaluska. However Celtic were the better side in the second half and captain Scott Brown hauled Lennon's ten-men level with 25 minutes remaining before Naismith was given his marching orders as he collected a second booking for diving in the 76th minute.
"I thought we were brilliant, absolutely brilliant," said Celtic boss Lennon. "They played with a lot of character and self-belief and scored two cracking goals and created a lot of chances.
"We were in control of the game, even when Rangers got the penalty we were the dominant team. There is a real collectiveness about them. At half-time I said to them there is no point in playing well and losing; people don't remember the losers in Old Firm games. They set their stall out in the second half and played wonderfully well."
Lennon, who is undefeated in his two visits to Ibrox this season, said he would take a lot of pleasure from the way his side played. "They were brave on the ball, brave in the tackle, they worked tremendously hard and even when they were down to ten men versus 11 I thought we were the better team," the Hoops boss said.
Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist was frustrated that his side hadn't made the most of their extra man advantage in the second half. "The important thing at half-time was we kept our discipline and we didn't go chasing the game as we were in front," McCoist said. "But at the same time there is a very fine balance and I don't think we got that balance right because I thought we sat back a little bit too much second half rather than go and force the issue."