Celtic hope for home comfort against Kilmarnock

GLASGOW: Celtic will hope to quickly bury the memory of their mid-week League Cup exit when they host Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premier League on Saturday.

The holders crashed out of the cup competition on Wednesday after a 1-0 defeat at home to Hearts.

New coach Tony Mowbray is already under pressure, despite the Hoops topping the table, after leading his side to just two wins out of nine games at home this season.

The Hoops have come under fire from their supporters for their indifferent form at Celtic Park, a venue that was previously a fortress in domestic and European competition.

Celtic's strikers have also come in for criticism, having failed to find the net in three successive home games, but midfielder Barry Robson says it is up to every player to chip in with goals.

"I think we have been playing well in a lot of games and we are still top of the league," he said. "And if we win our next three European matches as well then we will qualify from our Europa League group.

"But it's down to every player. The defenders should be aiming to score at set-pieces, the midfielders should be chipping in and I'm sure the strikers will score goals in the future.

"It's just about trying to turn good play into goals. We could have won by a few if we'd taken our chances against Hearts so the boys are working hard in training to try and get things going."

The mood amongst the supporters at arch-rivals Rangers is not much better.

Speculation has surrounded the future of the club all week since manager Walter Smith announced after last weekend's draw with Hibernian that the Lloyds Banking Group were in charge of the Old Firm giants following David Murray's decision to step down as chairman.

Bank officials moved quickly to deny this but the failure to sign any players for the past 18 months led Smith to say his side has stagnated.

Even a mid-week win against Dundee to secure a place in the semi-finals of the League Cup has not lightened the mood at Ibrox.

Smith's own future, along with the rest of his backroom staff, is in doubt with his contract due to expire in January and his injury problems are mounting with Madjid Bougherra, Pedro Mendes and Lee McCulloch all out for Sunday's visit to Dundee United.

Despite the storm clouds gathering over Ibrox as the club seeks a new owner, Smith has guided Rangers to second place in the SPL and they have yet to lose in domestic competition.

With important games against Dundee United and Unirea Urziceni in the Champions League coming up this week, midfielder Kevin Thomson says the club's unbeaten start to the season shows the players are unaffected by the speculation.

"The whole thing surrounding the club is behind the scenes at the moment," Thomson said. "We are the players and we need to do what is right on the park, that's what we are paid to do.

"We know what's going on, but it doesn't affect the players. We still have a job to do - that's what we get paid for and I think we have shown there is still hunger within the dressing room, regardless of what is going on behind the scenes."

Elsewhere on Saturday, third-placed Hibernian, who sit just three points off the top of the league, entertain Aberdeen at Easter Road.

Motherwell take on Hearts looking to put their League Cup exit behind them and compound Hearts' miserable start to the league which sees them lying in ninth place.

Bottom club Falkirk travel to St Johnstone still looking for their first win of the season and St Mirren take on Hamilton.

Fixtures (1500GMT unless otherwise stated)


Celtic v Kilmarnock, Hibernian v Aberdeen, Motherwell v Hearts, St Johnstone v Falkirk, St Mirren v Hamilton


Dundee United v Rangers (1230GMT)