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Stephen Craigan: Celtic will be revitalised after winter break but onus is on Rangers to back up hard work

 

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Big roles: Odsonne Edouard now has help in striking department

Big roles: Odsonne Edouard now has help in striking department

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Big roles: Odsonne Edouard now has help in striking department

The winter break is over and the top-flight clubs in Scotland are back in action this weekend as the Scottish Cup takes centre stage.

Rangers got their quest under way last night with a 2-0 win over Stranraer at Ibrox.

As for Celtic, they have a Glasgow derby of another kind as they travel the short distance to face Partick Thistle.

The bigger picture, though, means that all eyes are on the run-in for the Scottish Premiership title as it resumes on Wednesday night.

Both Celtic and Rangers had training camps in Dubai during the short break and it will be interesting to see if that has refreshed them for the titanic battle ahead.

The Hoops were probably more in need of the break as they looked a bit jaded towards the end of December, which culminated in their defeat to Rangers at Celtic Park.

Neil Lennon was reliant on a core of players during the first half of the season and he will hope the likes of Callum McGregor and James Forrest benefit from the down time.

The Celtic players had the aforementioned Old Firm loss to mull over during the past few weeks as well and it will have been bugging them. Defeats are always hard to take, but one against your biggest rivals carries extra significance, and they will just be desperate to get back into competitive action.

Lennon will have had to play his role as a psychologist just to reaffirm a positive message to his players about how well they've performed this season. He won't want one game defining their campaign and, having been there himself as a Celtic player, his experience of the situation will be vital.

Neil has already strengthened his squad with the capture of Polish centre-forward Patryk Klimala. I've spoken often about the Hoops' over-reliance on Odsonne Edouard, so Lennon will hope that Klimala can help share the workload with the Frenchman.

With that, I expect a refreshed and rejuvenated Celtic team wanting to prove their doubters wrong, starting tonight against Partick Thistle.

On the other side of the city, Rangers will have certainly enjoyed their break in the sunshine, and so they should have after they managed their first win at Celtic Park in almost nine years.

There will have been a spring in the step of Steven Gerrard's players in the past few weeks and rightly so as they blew the title race open with that Old Firm victory. He must, however, reiterate that it's only three points and nothing more.

For Gerrard and his team, it's now about learning from past mistakes as this time last year they were in a similar situation yet lost their first league game after the break down at Kilmarnock. They handed the initiative to Celtic, who were only too glad to accept it and never looked back as they sealed another title.

Complacency is an overused word in professional sport but it's fundamental that Gerrard doesn't allow it to creep into his players' mindset.

They must use the positivity and their vibrancy as a catalyst to kick on and achieve something special. Time will tell whether they can or not but they've put themselves in a very healthy position.

The transfer rumours have been quiet around Ibrox but the return to fitness of Jordan Jones is a major boost for Gerrard.

The Northern Ireland ace's absence has, at times, left Rangers a bit light on natural width, so it'll be interesting to see if he gets an opportunity to fulfil his potential.

So as it all starts again and the mind games begin, it would take a brave man to say what way the title will go. There'll be twists and turns, of that there is no doubt.

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