CRAIG Gordon has attempted to play down Celtic’s status as overwhelming favourites to win the Old Firm League Cup semi-final, insisting beleaguered Rangers still pose a serious threat to the Scottish champions.
The Glasgow rivals will collide for the first time in almost three years at Hampden on Sunday with many observers believing there has never been a bigger gulf in quality between them in the 127-year history of one of world football’s most famous fixtures.
The bookmakers agree, making Celtic as short priced as 1-3 to win, while Rangers are available at 6-1. Despite those unprecedented odds, however, Celtic goalkeeper Gordon believes the crisis-torn Ibrox side remain capable of upsetting them.
“Rangers still have enough quality in their team to win,” said Gordon. “So we will be looking at ourselves and our preparation for the game.
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“It’s not just experience Rangers have, with players like Lee McCulloch and Kenny Miller, but good quality players too and we’ll have to be wary of that, as well as causing our own problems for them. I don’t feel there is added pressure on us because we are the favourites. Is it a 50-50 game? They probably always are, regardless of who is playing for the two sides.
“The form book goes out of the window in Celtic-Rangers matches and there are two sides with 11 men desperate to win the game. When you have that, anything can happen. It’s a semi-final and a massive match, but it would be massive anyway.”
Gordon will be among those making his Old Firm debut. The 32-year-old has experienced both the Edinburgh and Tyne-Wear derbies during his time with Hearts and Sunderland but anticipates Sunday will place both of those fixtures in the shade.
“I would think it is the biggest derby I’ll have been involved in,” added Gordon. “I can’t speak too much about it, because I have never previously played in it and it’ll be a new experience for me. I’ve played in some big matches, both internationally and at club level, and I’m really looking forward to experiencing this one. I’ve only been to one Old Firm match as a spectator. It was Lubo Moravcik’s last game for Celtic against Rangers at Celtic Park in April 2002. Someone had dropped out of one of the hospitality boxes for the game and I was asked along.
“Celtic had already clinched the league title that season, so the game didn’t matter too much, if you could ever say that about a Celtic-Rangers match. What I mean is that, although it didn’t matter in terms of the league, it still meant a lot to both teams and sets of supporters.”
Saturday’s 1-0 win at Ross County saw Gordon keep his 14th clean sheet in his 28th appearance of what has been an impressive first season with Celtic so far. The Scotland international believes his club’s decision to take a winter break in Gran Canaria earlier this month has been justified by the results since their return, which have taken them back to the top of the Premiership table.
“We wanted to get away, get ourselves right and come back strong,” said Gordon. “Putting a run together to get ourselves where we want to be in the league was important and we have managed to do that with three wins since we got back. Now the preparation has started for a big game against Rangers.”