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Lee McCulloch sees Rangers-Celtic title battle going to the last day

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 20 Mar 2024

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Lee McCulloch envisages the cinch Premiership title race going to the last day of the season because he still believes stuttering Celtic have too much quality to let in-form Rangers pull away in the run-in.

The Hoops looked destined for a procession to a third successive championship as Rangers floundered under Michael Beale early in the campaign.

However, Philippe Clement has galvanised the Ibrox side since his arrival in October, hauling them right back into the mix, with Brendan Rodgers’ side dropping points in six of their last 17 games.

Celtic currently top the table by a point, although Rangers have a game in hand, and McCulloch, who played for the Ibrox club from 2007 until 2015, feels it is still far too close to call.

“I don’t see an obvious favourite,” he told the PA news agency as he helped launch a July friendly between Manchester United and Rangers at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh.

“I can see it going as far as the last day. Celtic are getting players back, the likes of Cameron Carter-Vickers, Callum McGregor and Reo Hatate are massive players for Celtic, and you can’t disregard that.

“Celtic have maybe had their ups and downs in the last months and they’ve maybe not played to their capabilities this season but they’re a very good team.

“You can’t just disregard them and say ‘right, that’s it, Rangers are going to win the league’. There’s a lot of football to be played until the end of the season, so it will be interesting to see which players and which team holds their nerve.”

McCulloch noted that Rangers – with 19 wins from their last 22 league games – have “come on leaps and bounds” since Clement replaced Beale but he still feels they must prove they can handle the pressure of a title run-in.

“When you look back at the start of the season there was a disconnect between the players and the fans, so all credit goes to the manager for bringing a togetherness back,” he said.

“They’re now in a tremendous situation where if they win their game in hand they can go two points clear. The Old Firm games are going to be very important but, with just nine games to go, every game is going to be massive.

“I think there is definitely more pressure on Rangers now than there was at the start of the season but there is also pressure on Celtic because of the way they’ve played in the last couple of years and the dominance they’ve had. There is different types of pressure on the two teams.

“The bulk of the Celtic players will not really have had a pressured run-in but you could say the same for the Rangers players as well. It will be interesting to see over the final games how certain individuals and how the Rangers and Celtic squads react to the pressure.”

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