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Michael Taylor 26th Dec 2008 - 15:36

Walter needs Old Firm win

Rangers manager Walter Smith is beginning to feel the pressure as his team continues to struggle for consistency in the SPL, but a victory over Celtic on Saturday would give the experienced boss a stay of execution.

Rangers had made a flying start to the season and, when they managed a 4-2 victory at Parkhead against Celtic, the memory of losing the title last season started to fade.

However, since then an early exit from Europe and stuttering league form has left the blue half of Glasgow feeling even bluer as they trail their rivals by four points.

Celtic themselves have not been without problems, including a disastrous Champions League campaign which saw them fail to make the UEFA Cup, while injuries have ravaged their forward line.

Manager Gordon Strachan has played down the importance of the second Old Firm clash of the season. "It has been shown over the years that it is not huge," he said.

"It is other results, surprise defeats, that have been costly, although to be fair, every game counts."

He isn't fooling anyone though. If Celtic enter 2009 with a seven point lead over Rangers then it is hard to see how they will crumble - meaning this match is vital.

Rangers certainly have enough to get the job done, especially if ex-Scotland international Kris Boyd (5/1 first goal, 5/4 anytime) carries on in his sensational goalscoring form.

The targetman has 16 goals, hitting back at the critics that had written him off after international snubs and a lengthy spell on the Rangers substitute bench last year.

Celtic also need to watch out for Kenny Miller (6/1 first goal, 7/4 anytime) as the former Bhoys star will be determined to show what they are missing out on.

For Celtic, Georgios Samaras (11/2 first goal, 6/4 anytime) will be given the start and can look to add to his 11 goals, while Scott Brown (16/1 first goal, 6/1 anytime) is finally justifying his price tag and could be a great bet to grab a goal from midfield.

On the match betting, Rangers start as 13/10 favourites, while 11/5 about Celtic and 11/5 about the draw could represent better value, although whoever can rise to the occasion should be enjoying Hogmanay in positve spirits.

Everything is set-up for an epic encounter but, if Rangers lose, it may well be the last epic of the season, or, for Walter Smith, the last one as Rangers manager.

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