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BACK PAGE BULLETIN: McGREGOR FIRES CUP FINAL SALVO, GERRARD’S ‘BLESSING IN DISGUISE,’ McINNES ADMITS ‘DISAPPOINTMENT’

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CALLUM McGREGOR insists Celtic have enough firepower to blast Rangers in the Betfred League Cup Final at Hampden – even if main man Odsonne Edouard fails to win his fitness battle.

The £9million striker has missed the Hoops’ last three games – Rennes (3-1), Ross County (4-1) and Hamilton Accies (2-1) – after sustaining an injury following the 4-0 Premiership win over Livingston last month.

The French Under-21 international is a doubt for the silverware showdown on Sunday with boss Neil Lennon admitting he will give the flamboyant frontman every chance of facing Steven Gerrard’s side.

However, midfield anchorman McGregor is brimming with confidence after watching Lewis Morgan and Leigh Griffiths deputise for the former Paris Saint-Germain prospect in recent weeks.

The Scotland star, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “We’ve got a great squad and that has probably been demonstrated over the last three games without Odsonne .

“He is such a big player for us at home and in Europe, but Lewis has stepped up and scored a goal against Rennes. We’ve got loads of strength and depth in the squad and whoever is asked to play up front on Sunday, I’m sure they’ll do a job for the team.

“You can tell Lewis is an intelligent footballer. It was great for him to come in, get his start and his goal last week and you can see he’s full of confidence and got his assist last night with his wee flash across the box.

“He’s been great since he came in and it’s another boost for the team to show that when boys come in they are ready to play.

“Leigh will be definitely champing at the bit, too. Obviously, with all the big games you are desperate to play. Even last night was another step forward for Leigh, he looked a bit sharper again when he came on and helped us to get the winning goal.

“He’ll be desperate to play, as will everyone in the squad. It’s just important that we get as many players right at it leading into the weekend.

“Leigh has missed a lot of football so the more he can get on the pitch it will be beneficial for him and for the squad too. Getting a fully-fit Griffiths back will only help Celtic. I think he’s getting there, if he’s asked to play I don’t think there will be any problem.”

FORMER Rangers striker Kris Boyd believes his old side’s 2-2 draw against Aberdeen could be a “blessing in disguise” ahead of the Betfred League Cup Final against Celtic on Sunday.

Steven Gerrard’s side fell two points behind the eight-in-a-row champions after they let a two-goal lead slip against the Dons, while skipper Scott Brown’s dramatic stoppage-time strike gave Celtic a 2-1 win over Hamilton Accies at Parkhead.

Boyd acknowledged Steven Gerrard’s men cannot be happy with the Pittodrie stalemate, but reckons the result could serve as a wake-up call ahead of the silverware showdown at Hampden at the weekend.

The ex-Scotland nad international frontman, speaking to Sky Sports News, said: “If we go back to the first Old Firm game this season, Rangers were playing so well and some people thought they could go in and steamroller Celtic and it went the other way.

“Maybe this result at Pittodrie tells us that Rangers need to be performing at a level consistently, they need their big players to stand up. Steven Davis, Ryan Jack, Alfredo Morelos, Ryan Kent – you need them to be performing because if you drop below that then you are going to get punished.

“It might just be a good result here – not in terms of the league – but for Sunday looking forward to that, Steven Gerrard can deliver the message of ‘if we are not on it then we are going to get punished again’.

“It might be a blessing in disguise. They will still be raging that they dropped the points in the league, but for the Cup Gerrard can use this.

“He can refer back to this and you would think that Rangers would learn from their second-half performance.”

Goals from Scott Arfield and Ryan Jack had the visitors two goals ahead before Jon Gallagher pulled one back. Shortly after the turnaround, Andy Considine calmly slotted in the equaliser.

DEREK McINNES admitted a “disappointment” that Aberdeen didn’t take all three points in the 2-2 draw with Rangers at Pittodrie.

The Dons boss felt the Ibrox side were “rattled”, felt Sam Cosgrove could have won it for the home side.

McInnes, speaking to the Scotsman, said: “We scored a very good equaliser and there’s a tinge of disappointment we didn’t win with Sam missing his chance in the second-half.

“We had Rangers rattled, though, there’s no doubt about it. We knocked them out of their stride and played the game we wanted it to be played in the second-half. In the first half-an-hour, Rangers played the game the way they wanted it.

“I needed to see that from my team, but it also shuts a few people up who have questioned that. The reference point for our season has been the two Old Firm games. We went into the game four points better off than we were last year, but nobody wants to talk about that.”

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Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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