Celtic, Rangers have thoughts on Old Firm derby

Celtic and Rangers continue their battle Christmas Old Firm derby.

Rangers enters the weekend with a four-point lead over Glasgow neighbor Celtic as the two Scottish giants are once again pulling away from the rest of their challengers.

While neither side can afford to overlook weekend games, as Rangers travels to St. Mirren and Celtic hosts Kilmarnock, next week's match at Celtic Park will determine whether the year ends on a good note for either side.

No matter how big the clash next week will be, both clubs know it's crucial to take care of business this weekend, because it's important to enter the derby after a win.

"I think we're confident, we're heading in the right direction and we're ready to go so we want to start playing well again going into the Celtic match as that's a big one for us," Rangers' Carlos Bocanegra said.

"We need get on the ball like we do at home, play our football and take the game to them and score goals, while keeping them from finding the net," said Celtic's Gary Hooper.

"And we also need to win, so we can be confident going into the Rangers game."

Rangers enters its weekend match off three straight wins, as it has recovered from its first defeat of the season against Kilmarnock. A win is also huge, as it would maintain at least a four-point lead entering the Celtic match.

But Bocanegra knows it would be foolish to completely looked ahead, because if Rangers dropped points, it could allow Celtic to claim the top spot next week.

"All the teams here really fight and seem to raise their game when they come up against Rangers," Bocanegra said. "Because of that, this is going to be another battle. St Mirren will run, kick, fight and scrap but as long as we match that, we should be all right.

"For the best part of the season, we have done that against other teams. We've not been playing fantastically but we have been winning at least and that breeds confidence."

Rangers and St. Mirren tied 1-1 in October, but the Gers have 16 wins and two draws in 19 all-time meetings. St. Mirren also enters the match on a four-game slide, as it has two losses and four draws in its last four.

Celtic has won seven straight during a 10-game league unbeaten streak, but was also held in its earlier meeting with Killie, 3-3 in October.

"We have got to go out to win every game, no matter what has happened before," said Hooper, "and we have to take our performances of recent weeks into the Kilmarnock game."

Celtic has not lost at home against Kille in more than 50 years, so it will be hard for the visitors to extend a four-game undefeated run, including two wins and two draws.

Third-place Motherwell will try to pick up some ground over the next week, and starts with a trip to Hearts on Saturday. Motherwell has won five in a row on the road and seven of their last nine.

Last-place Dunfermline will try to maintain an unbeaten record all-time with a result against St. Johnstone, while Hibernian looks to end a six-game winless skid at Dundee on Saturday. Inverness hosts Aberdeen in the day's other game.

Also Wednesday, Aberdeen hosts Hearts, Hibernian hosts Inverness, Motherwell hosts Dunfermline, St. Johnstone hosts Kilmarnock, and St. Mirren hosts Dundee United.