Rangers, Celtic braced for Old Firm opener
Ally McCoist will take charge of Rangers in an Old Firm derby for the first time when Celtic visit Ibrox on Sunday as both sides look to take an early advantage in the race for the Scottish Premier League title.
Despite being a veteran of countless encounters with the Parkhead club as a Rangers player and as assistant manager this will be his first taste of the fixture as the man in charge at Ibrox.
The match will bring McCoist head to head with counterpart Neil Lennon again following their controversial clash at the end of a Scottish Cup game at Parkhead last season. It will be the first time in five months the sides have played after meeting seven times last season and after some heated exchanges on and off the pitch both managers will be hoping the focus is solely on the football.
Many players could make their Old Firm derby debuts in the match including Australian international Matt McKay. And the Rangers midfielder is relishing the prospect of facing Celtic, which he says will be the biggest game of his career so far.
"I know it's going to be hectic and there will be tackles flying in. The atmosphere will be incredible as well so I'm looking forward to it. If I'm needed, I'll be ready to play," said McKay, who arrived from Brisbane Roar last week.
"I've watched the derby before back in Australia and there have obviously been a fair few Aussies taking part in it over the last few years. With the passion and the big crowd, it's something I'm desperate to be part of. Long before I had a chance to come to Rangers, the Old Firm game was one I'd have loved to play in."
Gers injury woes
Despite an extensive injury list, the Ibrox side are unbeaten this season and haven't conceded in five matches to leave them sitting a point clear of Celtic at the top of the table. And manager McCoist said he hoped to have a selection headache for the crucial match against their Glasgow rivals after revealing striker Nikica Jelavic, American midfielder Alejandro Bedoya and defenders Sasa Papac and Lee Wallace could return from injury.
"We could have some choices to make on Sunday and that's what we are hoping for," the Rangers manager said. "I am very hopeful that Nikica's injury will clear up in time for Sunday. It wasn't anything major that kept him out at Dundee United, it was a slight niggle in his knee.
"We hope he can rejoin training and if so that will be encouraging for us. Lee Wallace is improving but we are not sure if he will be ready for Sunday. There has been an improvement with Davie Weir and also Jamie Ness. And we are hopeful that Sasa Papac will be with us for the weekend. Alejandro Bedoya had a calf strain last week and that's what kept him out of Tannadice but he is better this week and hopefully he will come into contention at the weekend. So the treatment room has been busy but we hope it is quietening down now."
Celtic too have their injury worries with captain Scott Brown and striker Anthony Stokes both missing out on Thursday's UEFA Europa League clash with Atletico Madrid. But assistant manager Johan Mjallby revealed he was hopeful both would be available for Ibrox.
"I think it is too early to say but they still have a chance for Sunday," the assistant manager said. "Anthony has a thigh strain, he shouldn't be too bad but we were surprised to see that he picked it up in training and that's it, we have to deal with it."