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SPL football title pressure welcomed by Gers boss

SoccerNews in Scottish Premier League 7 May 2008

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Rangers may be feeling the heat in the Scottish Premier League title race – after failing to win their last four league games – but Walter Smith could not be happier.

And the Ibrox side's manager is confident they will get back to winning ways this week with home games against Motherwell on Wednesday and Dundee United on Saturday.

After Sunday's goalless draw away to Hibs, Rangers are seven points behind league leaders Celtic.

Although the Gers have played three games less than their Old Firm rivals they now have little margin for error if they are to win their first SPL championship in three years.

However, this time last season Celtic were already champions and Smith is delighted to be experiencing the pressure that comes with a title race.

The Rangers boss said: “When you play for this club you are under pressure to win every game, no matter what competition it is.

“We don't need other people to pile pressure on us because we already know what the situation is.

“But this is a far better pressure than the pressure we faced last season. This time last year we were involved in a battle to finish second rather than first so I know what situation I would prefer to be in.”

Rangers have not won an SPL match since defeating Celtic at Ibrox on March 29 – losing twice at Celtic Park and drawing with both Dundee United and Hibs.

But this week Smith is confident his side can get back on track in the SPL race with two home victories.

He said: “We still know if we win the games-in-hand we have over Celtic we will win the league, although it's tighter now than it was a few weeks ago .

“But it's up to us to keep collecting three points and we now have two home games coming up in which we would hope to get back to winning ways.

“We know we need to win all our games in the league if we want to be champions so that's our aim.”

While Smith is keen to play down the pressure Rangers are beginning to feel in the SPL, he will know victory against Motherwell on Wednesday is vital.

Even a draw against the Fir Park side, who are third in the table, would mean Celtic – who currently have an eight goal advantage over Rangers – would almost certainly only need to win their remaining two games to be crowned champions.

And Motherwell are likely to prove difficult opponents.

On Saturday Mark McGhee's side were unlucky to lose 2-1 at home to Celtic – having taking the lead in the 60th minute.

They also defeated the league leaders at Celtic Park last month and in September held Rangers to a 1-1 draw at Fir Park.

The fact Motherwell are also involved in a four-way battle with Hibs, Dundee United and Aberdeen to clinch third place and UEFA Cup football next season will also ensure they have plenty at stake on Wednesday.

McGhee revealed he will make changes to the side that lost to Celtic for the visit to Ibrox.

The Motherwell manager said: “I have told some of the players who were left out against Celtic on Saturday that they will be returning against Rangers.

“We went with a side on Saturday that we felt suited the conditions and the way we wanted to play.

“But we will change that against Rangers so Ross McCormack, Simon Lappin and Stephen Hughes will come back in.”

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