Old Firm set for final-day drama

Rangers lead Celtic by one point going into the final day of the season
Rangers lead Celtic by one point going into the final day of the season

For the fifth time in nine seasons the Scottish Premier League title will be decided on the final day.

Rangers can seal a third consecutive championship success if they win at Kilmarnock on Sunday.

But, with Celtic just one point behind, a draw at Rugby Park would leave Neil Lennon's team needing a home win against Motherwell to triumph.

If Rangers were to lose in Ayrshire, a draw would be enough for Celtic to lift the trophy on goal difference.

A run of eight wins and a draw has put Rangers in pole position in what will be manager Walter Smith's last game in charge.

It would be the 10th championship under the 63-year-old's stewardship, who has already landed 20 trophies for the club over his two spells at Ibrox.

In sharp contrast, Lennon is nearing the close of his first full season in management and is yet to experience that winning feeling, having lost out to Rangers in this season's League Cup final.

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Media conference: Walter Smith

Celtic have had the better of the Old Firm head-to-heads in the SPL this term, winning two of the four clashes, while Rangers came out on top in the first meeting and the final game was drawn.

However, Lennon's side relinquished their slim advantage when they fell to a surprise 3-2 defeat at Inverness at the start of this month.

"I would rather have the advantage in our hands," said Celtic assistant manager Johan Mjallby.

"We are still disappointed that we let that chance slip but we can't dwell on that.

"Right now the focus is on us winning the game and then we have to hope that Kilmarnock can do us a favour."

Smith certainly has experience on his side and the former Scotland boss also has a squad of players that have developed a winning habit.

With so many players who have been over the course before, the Rangers manager is looking for them to hold their nerve for another 90 minutes.

"I think the experience obviously helps you," said Smith.

"In the last two years we have won the championship away from home, at Easter Road last year and at Tannadice the year before.

"There will be a nervous tension there, there will be little bits of apprehension that you will always have to overcome if you're going to win. There will be a bit of pressure placed on everyone.

"But we've handled it over the last few seasons and I just hope that having a group of players who have handled it before can help us this time."

Lennon has had several ugly distractions to endure in his rookie season, including an alleged attack by a fan during the 3-0 win against Hearts at Tynecastle on Wednesday.

He had a bullet sent to him earlier in the campaign and has had round-the-clock security since the first of two parcel bombs addressed to him was intercepted in March.

Another package containing a bullet was delivered to him at Celtic Park on Thursday.

And Mjallby fears this season will be remembered more for the off-field controversy surrounding the Celtic manager.

"Both teams are competing for the title and doing a good job, so we have to wait and see what the outcome is going to be," he said.

"I think it is a bit disappointing that Neil has been in the limelight when it comes to matters outside football.

"Now we want to focus on the last two competitive games of the season, two very important ones."

Rangers captain David Weir is hoping to lift the SPL trophy for the third successive year and give Smith the perfect send-off.

The 41-year-old has yet to resolve his own future and may also be bidding farewell to the Ibrox club.

"I've had a great career and I wouldn't change it for the world," said the defender.

"At every club I've been at we've had successes and failures. This will just add to it.

"Whether it's the best or the worst, only time will tell. It's just another page in the book."

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