Former Celtic striker Kenny Dalglish reckons Parkhead boss Ronny Deila is ready to grasp the opportunity presented by Sunday’s Old Firm showdown with Rangers.
The Norwegian and his team took another step towards their fifth straight title with Saturday’s win at Motherwell.
But there remain question marks over his long-term Celtic future following their stuttering campaign and Deila’s disastrous European record.
However, Dalglish reckons the manager will realise he can ease some of the weight on his shoulders by beating Mark Warburton’s team in this weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final.
The Hoops favourite said: “I think it’s an important match for Ronny but I’m sure he won’t underestimate it.
“He had his first taste of it last year so he knows what it’s about. He understands Celtic.
“He’s been there for a couple of years. He knows what the club stands for and what this game means.”
Next week’s clash will be only the second Old Firm duel since Gers’ 2012 financial implosion.
Deila’s Ladbrokes Premiership champions-elect are hot favourites to follow up last year’s 2-0 League Cup victory with another win at Hampden but Dalglish insists the Ibrox men will be under just as much pressure as their rivals.
“In an Old Firm game, there is pressure on everybody,” he insisted. “Nobody is going to grab any bonus points by saying, ‘We’re Rangers, we’re just a Championship team, we’re not under any pressure’.
“Ask the supporters if they are under any pressure. It’s the same for Celtic. Celtic are under pressure because they want to win too.”
Celtic could not have had it any easier when they met Gers last February but most Light Blues supporters were just glad to see their vastly under-equipped team not suffer a heavier beating.
However, Dalglish - who won four Scottish Cup winners’ medals at Parkhead before heading for a glittering spell with Liverpool - feels this week’s match-up will be a closer affair.
He said: “The game last year was really a 2-0 drubbing for Rangers.
“But they have been fantastic this year with the brand of football they have played. James Tavernier at right-back is one of their top scorers with double figures.
“They have got a really good philosophy under Mark Warburton. But whether that is good enough to compete with Celtic remains to be seen.
“They had a game against St Johnstone where they lost 3-1 but then beat Dundee 4-0 in the Scottish Cup. Dundee drew with Celtic just a week ago, so you’ve got to give them a chance.
“It will be interesting to see how they react to playing Celtic, as they are the best team in the Premiership.”
Warburton will be wary of Celtic’s attacking threat, especially with 37-goal frontman Leigh Griffiths back in scoring form after his Fir Park double.
But the Englishman will not stray from his own forward-think philosophy, according to Dalglish.
He said: “I don’t think they should change their principles just because they are playing Celtic. That is the way they play and they have got to play to their strengths.
“Why would the change it? If it’s not good enough, it’s not good enough.
“They are giving themselves less of a chance of being successful if they go down a different route to the one they’ve been down all season.
“I don’t think Mark Warburton will change his principles. It will be exactly the same and I think that’s the right way to go about it.”
Rangers will end their four-year nightmare this summer after clinching promotion back to the top-flight and Dalglish - Scotland’s most capped player - is pleased to see hostilities between Glasgow’s big two are being renewed.
He said: “It’s fantastic that we’ve got an Old Firm match back on the calendar. Next year there is going to be four, which I think for Scottish Football and both Celtic and Rangers supporters is what it is all about.
“Some people would get a lot of satisfaction from the demise of Rangers four years ago. But the football is not the same, is it?
“I think it will be a good kick-start for Scottish football now they are back in the top flight.”
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