Hibs win ‘annoys’ Lennon

Neil Lennon was both delighted and annoyed after his Hibernian team defeated Celtic 2-0 at Easter Road on Sunday.

The Edinburgh side have allowed a good start to the season slip way with a poor couple of months, seeing them drop to eighth in the Scottish Premiership table.

The home side made the perfect start when Vykintas Slivka struck after 46 seconds with a cool finish inside the box.

Celtic were poor in the opening half and Florian Kamberi finished a superb second-half counter attack with an emphatic finish to give Hibs the daylight they required, making it back-to-back home league wins over Brendan Rodgers' side.

Lennon was delighted to see off his old team, but also somewhat frustrated that his team haven't matched that level of performance recently.

"I'm delighted, considering the circumstances and the lack of depth we had in the squad, it's a remarkable performance really," the Hibs boss told Sky Sports.

"It annoy me, when I consider some of the games we have played in the last couple of months, and then we go and produce a performance like that. Two weeks ago against Kilmarnock we were pathetic and then today we beat the champions, and we deserved to beat them as well."

Hibs host Rangers in Leith in midweek and Lennon is challenging his players to show the same form against Steven Gerrard's outfit.

"We've got another big game now on Wednesday night, we're not jumping through hoops at the minute," he added.

"We're starting to look like the team we can be again. But you can't save your performances for the big games. You've got to do it week in, week out. It gets us back in the mix now for top-six, which pleases me going into the New Year.

"We've got to build on the last two performances, because they've been excellent."

Hibs are 5/2 to beat Rangers on Wednesday. The Light Blues are 1/1 with the draw priced at 13/5.

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Halliday wants result for Gerrard

Andy Halliday says Rangers can repay manager Steven Gerrard for giving up their Premiership top spot by firing the club into the Europa League knockout stages.

Gers climbed to the league summit with their victory at Hearts but five dropped points against Aberdeen and Dundee have seen them slip back behind their Old Firm rivals Celtic.

Gerrard admitted his team's defeat to Derek McInnes' Dons before Sunday's stalemate at Dundee had revealed which members of his squad he could place his trust in.

But Halliday reckons the Light Blues can regain some of their manager's faith by beating Rapid Vienna at the Allianz Stadion to secure their place in the knock-out stages of the Europa League on Thursday.

He said: "We owe the manager a performance after the last two, 100 per cent.

"To put ourselves in the position we did after the Hearts game – to now be in the position we're in now – it shows how quickly football can change.

"But as quickly as it can change for the worse, it can just as quickly change again for the better.

"We know we're 90 minutes away from achieving something very special.

"We owe the manager that because the last two performances haven't been good enough.

"It's a massive game, the type we've not had for a number of years. So it's understandable that the fans are looking forward to it."

Rangers are 19/10 to win, 5/2 to draw and 6/4 to lose to Rapid Vienna.

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Clarke cautious despite top spot

Steve Clarke has played down the importance of his Kilmarnock side having taken top spot in the Scottish Premiership by virtue of a 2-0 win over Livingston.

Greg Stewart scored both goals as Killie took the honours at Rugby Park on Wednesday evening, which meant that they took over at the top as both Celtic and Rangers slipped up.

However, Clarke refused to get carried away by such a lofty position, especially with a meeting with Celtic next on the agenda on Saturday.

He told reporters after the win over Livi: "Listen, it's nice for the supporters – they'll have enjoyed the night and looking at the league table, but for us it's just another three points.

"(The players will) look at the table and realise that if you work hard and are a good group of players you'll pick up points in this league.

"And if you pick up enough points then sometimes you get quite close to the summit, but there's nobody getting carried away. We've got an awful lot of work to do.

"At the end of the season we can tally up the points and see who's where and decide if it's been a good season or not.

"But, in December it's difficult to do that as there are so many games to come."

Killie are 10/1 to top the Scottish Premiership this season if Celtic are excluded, with the Rugby Park outfit 25/1 to lift the Scottish FA Cup, having last done so in 1997.

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Rangers urged to start well

Steven Gerrard does not want his Rangers players to repeat their negative display against Villarreal when they take on Spartak Moscow in the Europa League.

Rangers are unbeaten in 11 European matches so far this season but will find it difficult to preserve that record in Thursday's clash in the Russian capital.

Gerrard's side had to settle for a goalless draw against Spartak at Ibrox last month while the Glasgow side's boss was unhappy with the negative performance of his players in the first half of September's 2-2 draw against Villarreal in Spain.

The former Liverpool and England midfielder said: "In all honesty, the most important thing is what my players do and that we carry out the gameplan and we come here and really embrace and express ourselves.

"We don't want to play in a shell-like way as we did in the first 45 minutes in Villarreal – we want to really start strong and show Spartak and all their supporters our intent on the night, and that is to come here and do everything to get a good result.

"I don't think a draw does Spartak many favours so I am aware they have to go for the game and go for the win. Whether they decide to go gung-ho we will have to wait and see."

Rangers are 5/2 to beat Spartak on Thursday and 5/1 to draw the encounter 1-1.

Gers’ progress pleases Gerrard

Steven Gerrard believes the fact that his Rangers players were disappointed to only draw with Spartak Moscow shows how far they have come.

The Gers were held to a goalless draw by the Russian side in their latest Europa League match on Thursday, a result that extended their unbeaten record in Europe this season to 11 matches.

Gerrard's side are top of Group G after the stalemate, level on points with second-placed Villarreal, two points clear of third-placed Rapid Vienna and three better off than Spartak.

Rangers were beaten by Progres Niederkorn from Luxembourg last season so Gerrard is pleased with his team's improved form in Europe so far this term.

The former Liverpool and England midfielder said: "I feel very proud of the team in general.

"It is a nice thing for people to talk about and the players certainly deserve praise having come from where they were 12 months ago, losing against a team from Luxembourg.

"We have come on leaps and bounds and I would certainly have signed for being top of the group at this stage. I would have signed up for that on 15th June on day one.

"But there is a lot of hard work and big challenges ahead. I am really excited going forward and the players are disappointed that they didn't take maximum points, so that's a positive for me. It does show how far we've come."

Rangers are 5/6 to beat Aberdeen on Sunday while the Dons are 16/5 to win the League Cup semi-final.

Gerrard aims to ignite crowd

Steven Gerrard said that he wants his Rangers team to take the fans with them as they seek to continue their good form in Europe.

The Rangers boss, in his first season at Ibrox, has guided him team to the top of their Europa League group with a win and a draw from their first two games in the competition.

Their last performance in Europe was a 3-1 home win over Rapid Vienna and, with Spartak Moscow the visitors on Thursday night, Gerrard wants more of the same with the fans playing their part.

The Rangers boss said: "I'd like us to really take the game to the opposition. We need to ignite the crowd like we did in the previous game.

"We believe that if we play on the front foot, if we are aggressive and take the fans with us then we are a tough team to play against here.

"You try to put yourself in the shoes of the opposition manager. If your first game in charge is away at Ibrox, and if we're at it with the crowd behind us, then that is a tricky game for your first match in charge. We need to make sure we don't disappoint."

Gerrard was referring to the fact that former fitness coach Raul Riancho will be in the opposition dugout on Thursday after manager Massimo Carrera lost his job on Monday.

The Rangers boss however said the upheaval at Spartak Moscow wouldn't affect his own team's preparations for a game against "a big team with Champions League experience".

Rangers are 5/4 to win Thursday's game with the Russian side 23/10 and the draw 13/5.

Gerrard will have Kyle Lafferty back available after missing the win over Hamilton at the weekend while Ryan Jack also comes into contention for the game.

Graham Dorrans is 13/5 to score at any time in the game while Rangers are 150/1 to win the Europa League this season.

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Lafferty blocked from Accies appearance

Kyle Lafferty will not be able to play for Rangers against Hamilton Academicals this weekend after the Irish Football Association moved to block him.

The IFA have elected to invoke world governing body FIFA's five-day rule, after Lafferty was a late withdrawal from the Northern Ireland squad for their Nations League games against Austria and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Boss Michael O'Neill expressed his disappointment with the decision last week and the IFA has written to Rangers to say the forward cannot play on Sunday.

Under the current rules players who withdraw injured from international duty can be prevented from playing for their club for a further five days after the end of the international window.

Lafferty told Northern Ireland that he had an Achilles injury but, speaking before the match with Austria in Vienna, the Northern Ireland boss O'Neill indicated he was not impressed.

"Kyle had an Achilles problem, we knew he had an Achilles problem in September," said O'Neill.

"I plan to have a chat [with him] but not before the game. There's not another international after this until November so there's plenty of time to have that conversation."

The IFA have not seemingly moved to block Lafferty from turning out for Steven Gerrard's team on Sunday.

In a statement, the association said they had contacted the Premiership side and added: "As the player did not comply with the call up, the player is in breach and as a result, the Association is invoking the Fifa regulation (Fifa Regulations for the status and transfer of players, Annexe 1, Section 5)."

Rangers are 1/3 to win at Hamilton on Sunday, with Access 8/1 and the draw priced at 4/1.

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Gerrard looking for major money

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard has warned potential suitors that they will have to splash major cash if they want to take any of his stars away from Ibrox.

Former Liverpool great Gerrard has made a decent start to his managerial career with the Gers, with his side currently in sixth place in the Scottish Premiership standings, just five points behind leaders Hearts.

And a number of his players have been linked with possible interest from elsewhere, especially wing-back James Tavernier, who has impressed after being named as captain by Gerrard.

However Gerrard is adamant that no-one will be leaving on the cheap, telling reporters after a 3-1 home win over Hearts: "They best go to the bank and get an awful lot of money out, or he (Tavernier) is not going.

"I would be surprised if teams don't come (in for Tavernier) because he's been absolutely fabulous for me.

"Every player has their price, but if the price is not right then he does not go anywhere. All my players are for sale, let's get it out in the open. Every single one of my players is for sale, they have all got a price.

"But they are not the old prices, it's the new prices. So if you want them, then come with loads of money and you can have them."

The Gers can be backed at 4/1 to win the SPFL title this season, with Celtic available at 1/4 and Hearts 20/1.

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Hearts ‘ready’ for Rangers challenge

Table-topping Hearts are "ready and capable of getting points" in Sunday's visit to Rangers, according to manager Craig Levein.

Hearts, two points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership, are unbeaten in 13 games this term and have already defeated champions Celtic at Tynecastle.

They lead the way from Edinburgh neighbours Hibernian in second spot, with Glasgow rivals Celtic and Rangers down in fifth and seventh places respectively.

Steven Gerrard is helping Rangers turn Ibrox into an intimidating place to play once more. Thursday's 3-1 Europa League win over Rapid Vienna was Rangers eighth win from nine home matches this season, with the other a draw.

Hearts are 15/4 to win in Govan and the draw is priced at 3/1, while Rangers are 13/20 to win the game.

Levein feels his side, with six wins and a draw in the league and only three goals against so far, are ready for the test in front of them.

"I feel we are ready and capable of going through to Glasgow and getting points," Levein said.

"I think it will be a great game.

"We have faced a number of tests [so far], some of them when we have been strong favourites and some when we have not been.

"The pleasing thing for me is that everything that has been presented to us we have managed to deal with. I'm hopeful we can do the same again on Sunday."

The Jambos drew 0-0 on their first visit to Ibrox last season, but were subsequently beaten 2-0 and 2-1 on further league trips face the Light Blues on home soil.

While Rangers were in a tough battle on Thursday and Hearts have enjoyed a week to prepare, Levein is unsure if that is an advantage.

"That's in the mix I suppose," he said. "But you also have the confidence they have in their home form and the confidence they gained from beating a very good side [on Thursday] night.

"It's always hard to work out if it's a disadvantage or an advantage to us."

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Gerrard earns Rangers praise

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp believes Steven Gerrard has helped Rangers narrow the gap on their Scottish Premiership rivals Celtic this season.

Rangers have made a positive start to their season, reaching the group stages of the Europa League, while also going unbeaten in the league until their recent 1-0 defeat to the Hoops at Parkhead last weekend.

Having managed in the youth set-up at Liverpool under Klopp, Gerrard made the bold move to take up the position at Ibrox and has already got Gers on the up.

Klopp has been impressed with the start the former England and Liverpool midfielder has made in Glasgow and feels he has already had an impact with the Light Blues.

"I have seen a few games because Stevie has three of my former players, two on loan and Flano [Flanagan]," Klopp said.

"He [Gerrard] is doing well. I am not sure what the Rangers fans expect but the start was brilliant actually.

"Then you lose against Celtic. Wow, what a surprise! That is a top team in the league."

Rangers are 7/1 to win the Scottish Premiership title this season, while Brendon Rodgers' Celtic are 1/8 to retain their crown.

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