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Gers can't afford to be distracted by Old Firm battle, says Warburton

By Andy Newport

Mark Warburton has warned his Rangers players not to risk slipping up at St Johnstone by focusing too much on their Hogmanay duel with Celtic.

Gers will welcome their bitter rivals to Ibrox for the first time in four and a half years on Saturday. But before that, they must take on Tommy Wright's Perth side at McDiarmid Park tonight.

Warburton understands both his players and the Light Blues faithful will be desperate to face Brendan Rodgers' rampant Ladbrokes Premiership leaders on home turf, especially after suffering two painful defeats to the Hoops already this term.

However, he is also fully aware of the threat posed by the Saints, who his side have yet to defeat in his two previous clashes as Gers boss, and does not want to see a third chance wasted.

Asked if it would be human nature for his men to have one eye on the showdown with Celtic, the Englishman said: "We can't do that. You could win the Old Firm game but lose to St Johnstone. I understand (the excitement levels that surround the Celtic match) and I'm not understating that in any shape or form.

"But it's about the three points and the next game against St Johnstone - it has to be that way. So we can't look ahead. As soon as Wednesday is out of the way, then we will look ahead."

However, frontman Martyn Waghorn reckons the lure of landing a starting slot against the Hoops could be all the incentive his team-mates need to shoot down the Saints.

"Subconsciously, I think everyone is going to be thinking that they are playing for their place in the Old Firm game," he said.

"It's a huge game and everybody wants to be involved in it. You're only going to do that, though, by working hard in training and the same if you get the call to play on Wednesday.

"It's up to people to work hard and stake their claim. We've got another big game on Wednesday with three points on offer so we will see where that leads to.

"It would nice to show what I can do against Celtic. The first game obviously wasn't great by our standards (a 5-1 hammering).

"For me, it was my first game back after injury and it was a disappointing result.

"The semi-final (a 1-0 loss) was bitterly disappointing as well. But we've taken positives from that game. We played a lot better and showed what we can do."

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