Celtic boss Neil Lennon has kept mum all week about Glasgow Rangers – but he knows the Old Firm passions will ignite on Sunday.
The Celts can stake a major claim for the Scottish League title with a Parkhead win over their fiercest rivals.
Currently five points ahead of their neighbours at the top of the table, but with two games more played, Celtic know Sunday’s derby could be a pivotal moment in their season.
Lennon though has tried to shield his players from the pressure and didn’t even mention the Rangers game in training before Friday’s session.
He said: “Nerves have not been evident so far and we try to play down the fact it’s an Old Firm game.
“We don’t really mention the opposition until the days before the game. We just try to keep it as normal as possible.
“We do that because it’s just another league game, the outcome is three points.
“It’s important we keep the run going no matter who we are playing and it just happens to be Rangers this weekend.”
Champions Rangers have already won at Parkhead this season but Celtic gained revenge at Ibrox then drew a Scottish Cup clash there 2-2 earlier this month.
However Lennon won’t read anything into previous games this season before Sunday’s latest installment of the Old Firm odyssey.
The Bhoys boss added: “Every Old Firm game is different. Regardless of what happened at Ibrox, this will be a different game.
“We will take the positives from it but not be kidded on about it.
“They are a good team, they are the champions. They are very difficult to beat and have a good mentality about them as well.”
Celtic should have defender Thomas Rogne and James Forrest available after injury but Spanish midfielder Marc Crossas has left the club for Russian outfit Volga Nizhny Novgorod.
Frank Lampard has warned Chelsea’s superstars that their stuttering defence of the English Premier League title could kill their hopes of Champions League football next season.
The England midfielder, just back after months out to injury, knows the Blues are running out of time as they trail leaders Manchester United by 12 points.
Not even a top four finish – and CL football next season – is guaranteed for Chelsea who are still waiting on a first goal from new signing Fernando Torres.
Even with a break from league action for an FA Cup clash against Everton this weekend, Lampard knows European football is a must for Roman Abramovich’s club.
“We must finish in the top four and can never take our eye off the ball, it would be a disaster if we didn’t qualify for the Champions League,” admitted Lampard.
“There’s huge importance now to our current Champions League campaign and to the FA Cup because you can see the league’s going to be difficult and that means it’s more important to reach finals.
“We haven’t performed as well, there’s been injuries, and some unsettling moments, but if you don’t perform you fall behind in the title race.”
New signing Torres has yet to break his Chelsea duck but Lampard believes he will be a major addition to the Stamford Bridge outfit.
“Fernando has made a huge difference,” claimed Lampard.
“No, he hasn’t scored in two games but all the spotlight is on him.
“There’s a huge responsibility, people are looking to him to do it instantly, but he will make a difference to us.
“He’s a top-class player, he has boosted the lads already and for sure will come good, he’s going to add to us in a big way.”
Manchester United Update
Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs has handed manager Alex Ferguson a major boost and signed a one year contract extension with the EPL leaders.
Giggs will complete 21 seasons with the Red Devils next year after agreeing a deal that brings him past his 38th birthday.
“All I’ve ever wanted to do is play for United and I’ve been lucky enough to do that for 20 years,” said Giggs ahead of the FA Cup clash with non-league Crawley Town.
“It is great to know I’m still contributing to the team’s success and I feel I’ve got a lot to offer on and off the pitch.
“This is an exciting time to be involved with so many good young players coming through.”
Giggs is looking for a record 12th English title win this season and has already played over 600 Premier League games for United and over 800 first team matches in total.
Manager Ferguson said: “You run out of words to describe Ryan Giggs. He is a marvelous player and a wonderful man.
“To have the desire and the ability to play at the top level in such a physically demanding position at his age requires a special person.
“He is still turning in man-of-the-match performances and his experience is so vital for the younger players in the squad.”