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We can rule at Parkhead once again and seize control of title race, says confident Rangers boss Gerrard

Gers boss sure his men have belief they can repeat December victory


Shake on it: Steven Gerrard and Neil Lennon are ready to go head-to-head once again in the battle for Old Firm delight

Shake on it: Steven Gerrard and Neil Lennon are ready to go head-to-head once again in the battle for Old Firm delight

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Shake on it: Steven Gerrard and Neil Lennon are ready to go head-to-head once again in the battle for Old Firm delight

Rangers tasted victory in the east end of Glasgow for the first time in nine years back in December but failed to build on that rare away win against Neil Lennon's team and paid the price as Celtic were crowned champions again.

Today's result at Celtic Park could have a major say on the outcome of this year's title race as the Hoops chase down an historic 10th straight title, but Steven Gerrard is backing his team to put on a repeat performance behind closed doors.

The Rangers manager said: "It's going to be a tough game. (December) was the first time we managed to get a win there for a very long time. That lets you know how difficult the task is. Celtic are a good team, a strong team, a successful team.

"But we went there with a game plan, performed extremely well with confidence and belief and got the job done. We're hoping the players can go and produce a similar type of performance. We're not really focused on there not being any fans there.

"We're focused on our game plan. We want the players to go to Celtic Park with belief and confidence but we certainly won't be going there over confident just on the back of last year.

"We know it's going to be a very tough challenge and we need to find a real top-level performance if we are to have any hope of taking the three points."

Lennon, meanwhile, believes it will be "very strange" to have no fans inside Celtic Park for an Old Firm derby but is looking to extend an eight-game unbeaten run in all competitions, while a win would take the champions above Rangers by two points having played a game fewer.

He said: "We are at home, and it is important we consolidate our home form. I think it will be physical and fast, like any other derby, but I think it is sprinkled with a lot of quality players.

"We are in brilliant form, we have won our last eight games, scored a lot of goals. We are looking forward to it."

With fears that fans could travel, some of them afar, to watch the game in pubs, Lennon offered his advice to Celtic fans.

He said: "Enjoy the game at home. Stay with your family, don't put yourself or anyone else in jeopardy. Please don't travel.

"Going out, going to other places, different towns, it is not ideal, not acceptable."

Much of the build-up has revolved around Covid and, in particular, players being put into self-isolation after international action over the past fortnight.

Lennon says Celtic will want answers if Ryan Christie is indeed absent today, while fellow self-isolator Kieran Tierney plays for Arsenal.

The Hoops midfielder and the Gunners defender missed Scotland's recent triple-header after being in close contact with Stuart Armstrong, who tested positive for Covid-19.

The Parkhead boss claimed Celtic were told that Tierney, also told to self-isolate for 14 days, will be available to face Manchester City today.

Lennon also revealed Odsonne Edouard will be assessed after recovering from Covid-19, which was confirmed while on international duty with France Under-21s, and that Switzerland striker Albian Ajeti has trained after shrugging off a hamstring injury.

"Our medical department have spoken to the (Arsenal) club doctor and they have been given the all-clear for Kieran to go ahead," Lennon said. "Everything is devolved up here and what we have been told is that in this jurisdiction, Ryan can't be available to play, which we find strange.

"Peter (Lawwell, chief executive) and the board have been pushing this since day one and we have had no clarification. If anything we have just been met with complete resistance so far.

"Ryan was devastated. They felt they followed procedures properly and he is probably guilty by association, but he has had two tests with us, both negative, and has been for the last 10 days.

"So we have a fit and able player not being allowed to play, which we find, if this scenario pans out that Kieran can play, very confusing, and we would want answers."

While Nir Bitton and Hatem Elhamed are missing after testing positive for Covid-19 while on international duty with Israel, Edouard has returned following his period of self-isolation.

Lennon said: "(Edouard) will be assessed today - we are going through that procedure at the minute, so we will know more later on this afternoon.

"He has been a bit tired and isolated but we will go through the tests and see how he is."

Gerrard insists he has no problem with his Rangers players going on international duty - as long as they are kept safe.

The former England skipper said: "Assuming that players can be safe, I want international football to continue. Of course I do. I remember sitting in the house and there was no football on at all. I was bored out of my mind.

"So I think we're in a privileged position domestically that things can continue, even though we are facing these challenges.

"We know it's not perfect but two weeks ago we got a fantastic highlight qualifying against Galatasaray, so I can't sit here and say European and international football should be cancelled because it might suit my Rangers team domestically.

"We have to manage the situation and try to keep the players as safe as we can."

Rangers - who head to Parkhead a point in front of their bitter rivals having played a game more - have had their own disruptions this week with the late return of nine international players just two days before the derby clash.

Belfast Telegraph