Rangers and Aberdeen close in on creating exciting title race

Rangers top scorer Alfredo Morelo can play a big part as his team bid to close the gap on Celtic. Picture: SNS.
Rangers top scorer Alfredo Morelo can play a big part as his team bid to close the gap on Celtic. Picture: SNS.
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Alex Rae is welcoming the prospect of a genuine title race and is interested to see if Celtic will be able to rebuff their pursuers if results go against them this weekend.

The champions have comfortably won the last six titles without any real opposition and impressively romped to an invincible treble last season, even if Aberdeen ran them close in the Scottish Cup final.

The League Cup is already back in the Parkhead boardroom and there is every prospect that they will create even more history by sweeping the boards for a second consecutive season.

However, a surprise defeat at Rugby Park on 3 February and two dropped points at home to St Johnstone last Sunday have offered a chink of light to the chasing pack.

If Rangers beat Hearts on Saturday and then Aberdeen defeat Celtic the following day, the lead at the top would be down to six points with ten games to play.

Throw in the fact that the next Old Firm game is two weeks away and Rangers could make it a three-point gap.

Will Celtic falter and stumble? Recent events would indicate not, but Rae feels it will be exciting for the Scottish game if Celtic’s nerves are tested.

He said: “I felt that Celtic would win this title by a minimum of 15 points – and they still might – but things have changed. Now there is a chance for Rangers and Aberdeen to ask some questions of this Celtic team.

“Finally they can see that they have the chance to eat into their considerable lead.

“It’s a remarkable scenario that if Rangers and Aberdeen both win then they will both be just six points behind Celtic with ten games to go. You have to take both games on their own merits and Rangers have not had a good home record but they will see this as a huge opportunity to exert a little bit of pressure.

“They’re going into the game against Hearts on the back of scoring 11 goals in two games.

“So they will be full of confidence and, at last, it’s a chance for them to see how Celtic handle it if they can win the game.

“Looking at Sunday’s game at Pittodrie, you have to say it’s probably the best opportunity Aberdeen will have of beating Celtic.

“With Celtic playing tomorrow night in Russia, then involved in a long journey home, then the long journey to Aberdeen, there is going to be an effect on them mentally and physically.

“Aberdeen will have all week to prepare for the game and they will completely realise the sense of occasion.

“They will come out absolutely flying because they know that this is a real chance to end a dismal run against Celtic.

“Their recent record is very poor but this has got to be as good an opportunity as they have had to change that.

“If you look at the points Celtic have dropped in the league this season – most of them have been dropped after European games.

“So that’s another aspect that works in Aberdeen’s favour.”

Rae knows, however, that Celtic have been so strong that it would be a huge shock if they blew the title.

He said: “Let’s put it all in perspective, they have only lost two domestic games in Brendan Rodgers’ reign which stretches to about 80 games.

“So Celtic will still be in the driving seat, but you never know how people will react when there is a little bit more pressure applied.

“It has been such a big gulf in the last six years. I think the lowest points margin Celtic have won by is 15 under Ronny Deila and it has been up to 32.

“So the fact that we could be talking about a title race come Sunday night is something that a lot of people will find refreshing.

“You define your league by having a challenge at the top. It becomes tedious if the same team is winning by a large margin every season.

“If Rangers and Aberdeen both win at the weekend, then all of sudden you start to look a couple of weeks down the line and the next Old Firm game.

“There would then be huge added significance to what is already a massive match.”