Sunday, March 13, 2011

SPL Today: Rangers v Kilmarnock

Rangers seem to have had a couple of games in hand since about 1935. This season is in danger of dragging.

They'll use up one of them today against Kilmarnock.

The story remains the same: Celtic are top of the league with a five point cushion. Rangers have two games in hand, six points that could put them a single point clear of Celtic. And then, game on.

This being Scotland, this being the SPL, there is an expectation that this is how the script has been written so this is how the movie of the season will play out.

Can Kilmarnock ad lib enough to make Rangers corpse?

The head to head suggests not. In four games (four!) already this season Rangers have enjoyed a clean sweep.

Rangers won 2-1 at home in August, won 2-0 away in the League Cup, sneaked a Rugby Park belter 3-2 in November and won comfortably at Ibrox in the Scottish Cup.

Fifth time lucky for Kilmarnock?

Ibrox might suit them - they've not beaten Rangers at home since Rugby Park was redeveloped but have won in Govan four times since 1994.

I mean, obviously, a win every four years hardly points to an upset being on the cards this afternoon. But you never know.

Rangers could be suffering from their Europa League exertions in midweek. It's an excuse Walter Smith always likes to mention before the games.

But so far only Celtic have managed to beat them immediately after a European game this season, a draw with Inverness the only other blip.

There are problems for Rangers though. The constant game of catch up with Celtic must be exhausting, there are injuries in a thin squad, there are off field distractions large and small.

Kilmarnock have bounced back from back to back defeat against Hibs and Aberdeen to win against St Mirren and, impressively, last week at Tynecastle.

There have been wobbles from this plaudit garnering Killie side - and there remains a Sammon shaped hole in attack - but they remain fourth and have the added incentive of trying to fend off Dundee United's challenge in the league.

But this is what Rangers do. They grind out results with grim determination in the bad times and build on those successes in the good times.

And they'll be keen to remind Celtic that they are still very much up for the challenge before next week's Co-operative Insurance Cup final.

No Eremenko for Kilmarnock either.

It might be stuffy. It might even be a touch bad tempered. Kilmarnock will very possibly come close.

But it's a home win for me.