ANDY WALKER has warned his former club Celtic to expect a tough battle in their quest for nine in a row.
The former Hoops striker reckons Rangers are “mentally stronger” this season and will keep the pressure on until the final weeks of the campaign.
Neil Lennon’s men overwhelmed Livingston 4-0 at Parkhead on Saturday, but Steven Gerrard’s men beat Hamilton Accies 3-1 to go level on points at the top of the Premiership and just behind on goal difference.
Both teams have dropped just five points from their 13 games and Walker, now a media pundit, thinks the Ibrox side are capable of winning the title under the :iverpool legend in his second term in charge.
Speaking of Gers, Walker told Sky Sports: “They are mentally stronger, mentally tougher, the players are]absolutely focused on the job at hand.
“None more so than Alfredo Morelos. I know he was on the bench yesterday, but this is a guy who scores regularly when he plays. He scores on the big occasion.
“You have a month coming up when Rangers and Celtic are going to be playing each other twice – once in the League Cup Final and once in the league game just after Christmas.
“It’s going to be neck and neck between these two sides, I think all the way to the last few weeks of the season.”
Walker added: “I think Celtic realise that Rangers are pushing them all the way. When you look at the make-up of the Celtic team, they’ve got some special players.
“They’ve got a fantastic goalkeeper in Fraser Forster, who is doing a lot of good things.
“They have players that they can rely on every season; Scott Brown, James Forrest, Callum McGregor and up front I think they’ve got a special goalscorer in Odsonne Edouard.
“There’s a lot of good things happening at Celtic just now and I think the thing to admire is that they’ve got so many games and are coping with it really well, scoring a lot of goals.”
Lennon’s men claimed a crucial win over Gerrard’s outfit at Ibrox in September when Edouard got the ball rolling with the first goal in the opening 45 minutes and substitute Jonny Hayes made certain with a second in stoppage time for a 2-0 triumph.
The teams are due to meet in the Betfred League Cup Final at Hampden a week on Sunday and again in the Premiership at Parkhead on December 29 before the winter break.
HEARTS have held talks with Daniel Stendel and are prepared to offer him a lucrative financial deal to lure him to Tynecastle, according to the Edinburgh Evening News.
Club officials spoke with the German coach over the weekend following an initial approach last week as they continue the search for a replacement for the sacked Craig Levein.
Austin MacPhee was in caretaker charge again at the weekend when they lost 3-0 to Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.
Stendel remains contracted to Barnsley until the end of the season, despite being relieved of managerial duties at Oakwell last month. He hopes to agree a severance package soon.
Unless he receives a pay-off, Hearts would need to pay a substantial six-figure compensation sum to the Championship outfit.
The Edinburgh club have also interviewed Stuart McCall, Steve Cotterill, Alan Irvine and Neil McCann for the job.
DAVIE PROVAN, the former Celtic and Scotland winger, has urged the nation’s bosses to move the vital Euro 2020 play-off semi-final from Hampden.
The 10-times capped 63-year-old, with his tongue presumably firmly in his cheek while describing the SFA chief, wrote in the Scottish Sun: “Charismatic SFA president Rod Petrie says Hampden will be ‘European class’ in time to host next summer’s Euro 2020 games.
“What does that mean? Supposedly undercover on the TV gantry last week, broadcasters were getting soaked during the Kazakhstan game.
“God knows what it was like for punters paying top dollar for front row seats. Right now Hampden is a soulless relic.
“If Petrie’s gang want to do Steve Clarke a favour for the Israel game, they’ll move it to Celtic Park or Ibrox.”