Scotland fatigue adds to Old Firm woes
Fresh from international duty is a contradiction in terms and this lunchtime's Old Firm derby at Ibrox might illustrate why. Celtic could be without their dynamic midfielder, Scott Brown, who pulled a hamstring in Scotland's 3-1 Euro 2008 qualifying win last weekend over Ukraine. Paul Hartley, another international, is doubtful with the same injury, and while Gary Caldwell, who was unavailable for his country with a knee problem, resumed training yesterday, he faces a late fitness test.
The Netherlands striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink is a doubt, while Gordon Strachan's three right-backs – Jean-Joel Perrier Doumbe, Mark Wilson and Paul Caddis – are all out. Caldwell will play there if fit.
On the blue side of town, Rangers' goalkeeper Allan McGregor – Scotland's reserve goalkeeper – and their right-back Alan Hutton have been passed fit after injuries on Scotland duty. But they and four others – David Weir, Barry Ferguson, Kris Boyd and Lee McCulloch – are still likely to be carrying fatigue hangovers from the week's Euro 2008 double-header when they get to the stadium not long after breakfast. Weir, Ferguson and Boyd did not arrive back in Glasgow from the mid-week game in Georgia until 4am on Thursday.
Rangers also have doubts over Brahim Hemdani (groin strain), Jean-Claude Darcheville (hamstring) and DaMarcus Beasley (ankle).
A win for Rangers, in third place this morning, would move them level on points with Celtic, who are three clear of them and one ahead of second-place Hibernian. But if the 12.30pm kick-off time has its typically flattening effect after an already hectic week for many of those involved, Hibs could end the day as the biggest beneficiaries. John Collins' side travel to Motherwell unbeaten in the Scottish Premier League and will go top with a victory as long as Celtic do not win. Celtic also have a midweek trip to Portugal in the Champions' League on their minds while Rangers' next game is at home on Tuesday to Barcelona.
Ahead of today's derby, Strachan has bemoaned the scheduling, saying fans will be short-changed because of lack of preparation time. "It would be nice if the people who pay good money to go and see their teams can get fresh players," he said.
On his right-back shortage, he added: "I've looked in the treatment room for any that look like they can breathe properly, but no."