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Rangers boss Smith expects Aberdeen to be at full strength

Rangers manager Walter Smith admits he would be surprised if Aberdeen boss Mark McGhee fielded a weakened team against Celtic today.

Reports yesterday suggested McGhee thought the Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash was less important than the Dons' Active Nation Scottish Cup replay against Raith Rovers next week.

The former Hoops striker had said: “We do not necessarily have to beat Celtic on Saturday to finish fourth in the SPL and make Europe.

“We do have to beat Raith in the cup. We need our strongest squad to be fit for Tuesday so I will need to be careful who I pick.

“It might be I'll make changes for Saturday to make sure the best team is clear to face Raith. It's something I have to look at carefully.”

He has since cancelled his pre-match press conference and it is understood an irate McGhee believes his words have been taken out of context.

Smith says he is unsure exactly what the situation is but would not expect McGhee to rest key players for the meeting with Celtic, who reduced Rangers' lead at the summit to eight points midweek.

He said: “I don't know whether that's going to be the case or not, there seems to have been conflicting views as to whether that's the case.

“I would be surprised if that happened.”

Defender Madjid Bougherra believes such a scenario would be irrelevant to Rangers anyway because they still have the title in their own hands as they prepare to host Hibernian tomorrow.

“We don't care,” he said. “We have the destiny in our hands and we need to win. That's it.”

Celtic may have dented Rangers' advantage after the Scottish champions were held to a draw at Motherwell on Wednesday night.

But Smith believes it is far too soon to suggest his players are beginning to “crack” under the pressure — as claimed by Hoops striker Marc-Antoine Fortune.

He said: “It's still a bit early for them to consider us starting to crack, there are still a number of games to be played. We just carry on and see how we go.

“There is always pressure here, there is pressure to win every game here and that doesn't change because of a league championship. There is always a level of pressure on you so there is not any extra pressure because of the situation we are in.

“We would maybe feel the extra pressure if we were a number of points behind and had to catch up but I don't think so at the present moment.”

Reflecting on the clash at Fir Park — where Motherwell wrongly had a goal disallowed — Smith added: “You always need a little bit of a warning.

“We were pleased in the end to get a draw, although we were disappointed with the way we played in the early part of the game especially.”

Belfast Telegraph


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