RANGERS boss Mark Warburton is refusing to panic ahead of facing Brendan Rodgers’ rampant Celtic – despite potentially having a defensive crisis on his hands.
The Englishman admits skipper Lee Wallace and centre-back Clint Hill have just a 50/50 chance of taking on the runaway Ladbrokes Premiership leaders in the Hogmanay showdown after picking up injuries.
Wallace tweaked his hamstring in last weekend’s win over Inverness, while veteran defender Hill trudged off against St Johnstone on Wednesday with a dead leg.
But Warburton said: “Lee is the captain of the club and has been outstanding for us and likewise Clint has been very, very good for us.
“Both are 50/50 at best. Clint got a nasty knock and had to come off. Had it been a Tuesday night game we might be more confident. We’ll have to see how he presents on Friday but fingers crossed.
“Lee is the same. They are both senior pros and their health and welfare is always of paramount importance. They know their body, they know what is right. We’ll liaise with the medical boys and decide accordingly.
“Obviously it’s a negative blow for us if they don’t make it but we have good players in the squad. Lee Hodson has stepped in to play full-back on both sides comfortably. In the middle we have Danny Wilson and Philippe Senderos, so we have options.”
Celtic go into the game with confidence after stretching their unbeaten domestic run to 23 games with a 2-0 home win over Ross County on Wednesday night, which made it 14 successive league wins for the champions.
Boss Rodgers believes Rangers’ desire to protect their 15-month unbeaten record at Ibrox will simply add to the expectation of the home support.
The Northern Irishman said: “There is always pressure.
“If you are successful and want to be successful there is always pressure.
“In terms of where we are at where Rangers are at, with Aberdeen and Hearts closing in behind them then of course they will want to win the game as much as we will.
“They are protecting an unbeaten run at home and their supporters will expect them to win the game.
“So that all points to pressure in their situation.
“We want to win the game as well but whatever way the result goes, we have had a brilliant opening period to the season.
“We will go away, re-energise, refocus and be better in the second half.”