Rangers v Celtic: We will learn from last time, says McCourt
Paddy McCourt believes Celtic's new boys will be much better prepared going to Ibrox on Sunday having tasted defeat to Rangers earlier in the season.
The Parkhead side started with six Old Firm debutants when the teams met in October and looked out of sorts as the Light Blues came back from a goal down to win 3-1.
McCourt scored the winner against Motherwell at Parkhead on Wednesday night to ensure the Hoops would travel to Govan with a one-point lead over Walter Smith's side at the top of the table, albeit the champions have two games in hand.
The Northern Ireland international insists the visitors will all be ready for what is coming.
“The new lads got a taste of it here at Celtic Park and they know what it's about now,” he said.
“I think on that day we were a wee bit caught with so many Old Firm debutants.
“But I think the lads know now what it's about and everyone is looking forward to the game.
“It's a massive boost going there top of the league.
“Obviously we have got back to winning ways after dropping points in the games before the games against St Johnstone and Motherwell. We said before the Motherwell game just to go out there and win the game and make sure we are going to Ibrox top of the league and so we did our jobs.
“I think we could have made life a wee bit easier for ourselves by taking a few of the chances in the first half but we got away with it, we held on well and looked quite comfortable.
“I was pleased with the goal, I added another one to my tally and thankfully enough it got us three points.”
Manager Neil Lennon will assess the fitness of Olivier Kapo and Daryl Murphy over the next few days but he will be without Scott Brown for the trip across Glasgow.
The Hoops skipper, who had only recently returned from a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a foot injury, was sent off in the closing stages of the game against Well after picking up a second yellow card from referee Stephen Finnie for a challenge on Fir Park defender Stevie Hammell.
McCourt believes Brown's absence will be “massive” but, in time honoured fashion, claims it gives an opportunity for someone else to make their mark.
“It was disappointing,” the former Derry City winger said.
“I was pretty close to it at the time and I thought he was unlucky.
“He went to go for it and then stopped and his momentum took him through and it was more of a collision than a tackle.
“Sometimes you get these against you and you have to get on with it. But he will be a massive loss for Sunday.
“He just came back against Kilmarnock and started in the last two games. He has looked good and fit and he will be a big loss but it opens the door for someone else to step in.”
Meanwhile, Freddie Ljungberg has completed a move to Celtic after passing a medical.
The former Sweden international, who made his name playing for Arsenal, will be officially unveiled as a Celtic player in Glasgow this morning.
The 33-year-old could be in contention for a place in the squad for the Old Firm derby, subject to international clearance.
Terms of the deal have not been disclosed but it is believed Ljungberg has signed until the end of the season, with a view to extending the deal if the move is successful.
“Celtic are delighted to announce the signing of Freddie Ljungberg. The Swedish international, who passed a medical today, could be in contention for a derby debut in the game against Rangers at Ibrox this Sunday, January 2, 2011,” the club said
“The former Arsenal midfielder won 75 caps for Sweden during his career. Since 2009, he has been playing in the United States, first for Seattle Sounders and then, more recently for Chicago Fire.
“Ljungberg, who has been training with Celtic this week, was at Celtic Park on Wednesday night to watch the Hoops beat Motherwell 1-0 and go back to the top of the SPL.”