Scottish Communities League Cup quarter-finals draw: Celtic and Rangers avoid each other
CELTIC midfielder Joe Ledley insists that Rangers are of no consequence to the Parkhead club this season as they pursue a domestic treble and Champions League success.
A potential first Old Firm clash since Rangers’ close season plunge into the Third Division failed to materialise yesterday when The Scottish Communities League Cup quarter-final draw at Hampden kept the two clubs apart.
Celtic landed a home tie against St Johnstone, while Rangers will welcome Inverness Caledonian Thistle to Ibrox. Hearts travel to face Dundee United at Tannadice, while Aberdeen will entertain St Mirren in the other two last-eight matches scheduled to take place on 30 and 31 October.
Many observers were intrigued by the possibility of Celtic and Rangers being paired together, while the Scottish champions’ major shareholder Dermot Desmond this week expressed his “disappointment” at the Ibrox club’s absence from the top flight.
But Ledley is adamant the Celtic players are not missing the traditional rivalry with Rangers and would not be concerned if they did not face them at all during the current campaign.
“Most people wanted to see an Old Firm game against Rangers in the draw but, as players, we don’t care,” said the Welsh international. “Am I missing the Old Firm games? No, nowhere near it. When you’re playing in the Champions League it makes up for it.
“It doesn’t bother us at all [if we face Rangers this season]. We just want to keep playing and see what happens. Our main aim is to win the league, win all the cups and to get as far as we possibly can in Europe.
“Those are our main aims. Rangers are not in the SPL so we have to get on with things. Can we do the clean sweep this season? Fingers crossed, yes, that is definitely our aim. It’s going to be difficult because people will be wanting to beat us but our aim is to win all three trophies. We are playing good football at the moment and taking it game by game. We just want to continue our form. It was a fantastic achievement in Moscow this week, beating Spartak 3-2. We are just happy with the way we are playing and who we are playing against.”
Ledley was satisfied with the outcome of yesterday’s draw in a tournament which has delivered final disappointment for him and Celtic in the previous two years – losing 2-1 to Rangers in 2011 and 1-0 to Kilmarnock last season.
“We wanted a home draw against anyone so we are happy,” he added. “It’s going to be difficult because St Johnstone are the only team to beat us this season, so we will have to try to put that straight because we want to win every single competition.
“We were gutted to lose the final last time against Kilmarnock because we are hungry and we are young and we want to win as many trophies as we can. We should have put that game to bed early on. But we lost and we have moved on. We are doing well at the moment. Is it a motivation not to go through that again? Yes it should be. Players have to learn from defeats like that and hopefully we can put that right in all three competitions.”
Given their feckless away form so far this season, a home draw was the priority for Rangers yesterday and goalkeeper Neil Alexander is hopeful they can consolidate the performance level displayed in the third round when they defeated Motherwell 2-0 at Ibrox. The 34-year-old, who played in Rangers’ most recent League Cup winning sides of 2010 and 2011, believes Ally McCoist’s team remain duty bound to set their sights on lifting the silverware despite their radically changed circumstances this season.
“We are absolutely obliged to try to win it,” said Alexander. “The experienced boys who have been brought up at Rangers know that we go into every game and every cup to win. The demands and expectations are placed on us by the manager and the fans.
“A draw is a catastrophe and a defeat is even worse. It’s win or nothing at Rangers and we try and bring that mentality into the team. Beating Motherwell gave us a lot of confidence, to win against a top SPL team. We have a lot of young players and we are in a transitional period.
“The squad is still gelling but it has given us a lot of confidence and hopefully we can take that into the next round. There’s only myself and Lee McCulloch left from the team that won the league two years ago, so there’s been a lot of players who have left and been brought in.
“It is going to take time to gel together but the Motherwell result has shown how good we can be and we now need another performance like that against Inverness. They will be very, very tough opponents.”
Alexander admitted the prospect of facing Celtic had been on the agenda in the Rangers changing room and he hopes the opportunity will present itself at a later stage of the tournament.
Scottish Communities League Cup quarter-finals:
Aberdeen v St Mirren
Rangers v Inverness
Dundee Utd v Hearts
Celtic v St Johnstone
Ties to be played
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east