Sat, Aug 23, 2003 - Page 18 News List

Rangers, Hibs ready for top-spot battle

AFP , GLASGOW

Rangers face Hibernian today in a top-of-the-table clash but the mood at Ibrox is downbeat as boss Alex McLeish faces losing two star players.

Captain Barry Ferguson remains a Blackburn transfer target following reports the midfielder is disillusioned with football north of the border and McLeish's admission Ferguson is "troubled."

And defender Bob Malcom has rejected the club's offer of a new contract, leaving Rangers with the the choice of selling him now or risk seeing him leave for nothing at the end of the season.

The 22-year-old's agent John Viola said: "The situation is that he has been in talks with the club about a new deal but it has been turned down. I don't know if any more talks will take place."

Ferguson, Maurice Ross and Henning Berg are back from Scotland's scoreless draw in Norway on Wednesday and could all feature.

McLeish has injury doubts over Craig Moore, Steve Thompson and Ronald de Boer's but Peter Lovenkrands is definitely out with knee ligament trouble.

"It should be another tough game for us this weekend," McLeish told Rangers World. "Hibs are very well organized and I thought the defense was a feature of their Edinburgh derby win last week-end. [Manager] Bobby [William-son] has the derby monkey off his back now and they will come to Ibrox with confidence," he said.

"They have taken six points out of six, like us, so I am sure we will face a very well organized and up for it Hibs side."

Hibs received a boost as Grant Brebner is clear to feature at Ibrox. The Scottish Football Association reduced the defender's red card against Hearts to a yellow.

"The referee reviewed his decision after the match and decided that the tackle was not as severe as he first thought," said Hibs director Rod Petrie.

Celtic travel to Partick Thistle but key striker John Hartson is unfit and unable to return.

The 29-year-old trained with the squad this week and is close to full fitness following back and calf injuries that have hampered him since April.

Hartson may be fit enough to face MTK Hungaria in the Champions League qualifier at Parkhead next Wednesday.

Partick midfielder Emmanuel Panther made his debut in last weekend's 2-1 loss at Kilmarnock and is desperate to face the Bhoys.

"Saturday will be a tough game but it is the type of game that all players want to play in, a big crowd and a tough test," he told the club's official Web site.

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