Rivals braced for Old Firm finale
Rangers and Celtic meet at Ibrox on Sunday in a match which is likely to determine the destination of the Scottish Premier League title as well as illustrate again the depth of bitterness which underscores the fixture.
It will be the final meeting of the Old Firm in a season which has seen the Glasgow giants meet a record seven times and where the ugly side of their rivalry has come to the fore. Rangers hold a narrow one point advantage going into the showdown although Celtic have a game in hand.
Rangers manager Walter Smith is hoping for a third successive championship in his second spell at the club to go with the six he won the first time round before he hands over the reigns to assistant Ally McCoist in the summer. His opposite number Neil Lennon, in his debut season in charge of the club he formerly captained as a player, is equally determined to claim the first trophy of his short managerial career.
"I have a target in mind that I have had since the start of the season - and that's to try to bring the championship back to the club - and I have not been swayed on that by any means," said Lennon. "I am just totally committed to and concentrated on my players and how to keep them in the best possible form between now and the end of May."
Celtic hold the upper hand with three wins in the six matches so far, but Rangers triumphed in their last meeting to claim the League Cup.
Rangers captain David Weir, who turns 41 in May, is relishing the match, which should be his 22nd consecutive derby since joining the club in 2007. However, with his deal up at the end of the season the veteran is determined to get a win in what could be his final derby match.
"It could be my last Old Firm game, but I don't mean that as in I've decided I'm leaving Rangers in the summer, I genuinely don't know what I'm going to do," the 40-year-old defender said.
"I think the more you play in the Old Firm games, the more special they become for a variety of reasons. You realise very quickly how important they are and how much they mean to people at the club and the fans. The more embroiled in them you become, the more you begin to understand how crucial they are."
Rangers will be without Vladimir Weiss and Kirk Broadfoot through injury, but Lee McCulloch may be fit.