Lambert draws on German conflict

 

Paul Lambert will draw on a Bundesliga derby experience which he believes rivals the Old Firm clash for atmosphere when Celtic face Rangers at Celtic Park today. Scotland international Lambert, who joined Celtic for £1.9 million earlier this month from Borussia Dortmund, believes his former club's meetings with Schalke 04 were as "crazy" as the Glasgow head to head. On arrival, Lambert joined a Celtic side unbeaten in 14 games, but they have lost to both Rangers and Motherwell since then, making the need for victory greater tonight.

A Celtic win would bring them level on points with Rangers, but defeat would leave them trailing both Walter Smith's team and leaders Hearts by six points.

But Lambert is determined his new club will record their first Celtic Park league derby victory for more than four years - and will put his European know-how towards achieving it.

He said: "Playing against Schalke 04 was always a crazy game - just like Celtic versus Rangers it was mental. It is not in the same city - the two are some 30 minutes apart - but the intensity is just as great.

"It is difficult to say which is the fiercest derby of the two, because they are both played out with enormous rivalry."

Lambert's switch to Celtic was driven by family reasons, and he clearly still holds Dortmund in high regard, having been reunited with his former colleagues only last week.

He said: "I went back to Germany and watched the team lose 2-0 at home to Bayern Munich. It was very emotional to return."

Celtic head coach Wim Jansen, meanwhile, reckons his side are more than able to compete on a par with Rangers. He said: "The players know they can do better than the 1-0 defeat last time; they have shown they can with performances earlier this season. I feel the fact my players have now experienced the Old Firm atmosphere will help them, because they will know what to expect.

"I think we are every bit as good as Rangers. There are always differences between two teams, but if you see our quality we can compete with them."

Jansen welcomes back Tosh McKinlay and also hinted Darren Jackson might feature, insisting the player is now fit enough for such a test.

But Jansen is under no illusions about the challenge Celtic face, admitting: "We need to be on top in all areas, because the atmosphere will be the highest you can get."

Richard Gough will lead Rangers out determined to stay cool in the emotional cauldron. The 35-year-old Ibrox skipper is hoping his unflappable attitude will have a ripple effect on the team and help them complete the double over Celtic in just under two weeks.

Gough scored the winner against Celtic 10 days ago - his first goal since returning to Ibrox following a spell in America with Kansas City Wizards.

The classy central defender admits he loves these matches more than any other and they are etched in his memory bank.

He scored his first-ever goal for Rangers against Celtic in October 1987 and then helped spark the Ibrox club to a record-equalling ninth successive title before leaving for America in May.

"They are special games and the ones I enjoy most of all. They are always good games to play in and we have a great record recently," he said.

"Losing always leaves a bitter taste in your mouth but winning is as good a feeling as it gets.

The Rangers skipper has renewed his links in defence with Scotland goalkeeper Andy Goram, who was outstanding against Celtic 10 days ago. Goram kept up the good work at Aberdeen at the weekend and Gough believes he is a player who always rises to the occasion.

Manager Smith has never questioned Goram's ability even though he had a nightmare against Dundee United last month.

"Andy made an error at Tannadice that was punished, but I never had any doubts about his ability to bounce back," he said.

Paul Gascoigne returns to the midfield after England duty, but Danish midfielder Brian Laudrup, who has a hamstring strain, and Italian defender Sergio Porrini (ankle injury) are doubtful.