Beattie: we're not underdogs
Stephen Sullivan

Craig Beattie has dismissed suggestions that it’s as underdogs that Celtic will travel to Ibrox for the first Old Firm derby of the season.

Neither of Glasgow’s big two has started the season particularly impressively and yet, despite the fact that they'll kick off one point better off than Rangers, Gordon Strachan’s Bhoys have been widely predicted to toil at the home of their old rivals.

Beattie, however, believes that the outcome will be as difficult to predict as ever, and insists that - even with home advantage in their favour – Alex McLeish's team would be well advised to beware a new-look Celtic side fully prepared for what awaits them.

“I wouldn’t say we were the underdogs at all,” he insisted. “Going to Ibrox is always tricky and it would have been nice if the first game was out there [at Celtic Park]. But we’ve gone to Ibrox and won before and we’ll go there looking to do the same again.

“I think [the new signings] know with the papers and stuff what the game’s all about. Everyone worldwide knows something about the Old Firm because it’s one of the biggest derbies in world football, so I’m sure the boys will all be well clued up on what to expect.”

Strachan - whose own previous Old Firm experience is restricted to watching from the stands - has certainly been doing his best to give the new Bhoys a flavour of what to expect, though he’ll doubtless know only too well that debutants on both sides will take time to settle into the always-frenetic action.

The Hoops boss will also be acutely aware that no fixture places a manager so firmly under the microscope as this one, though Beattie insists that, regardless of how Celtic fare tomorrow, Strachan has already earned his seal of approval.

“He’s changed a lot of things,” said the striker. “Training’s very different now, it’s very enjoyable and we’re always on the go.

“It’s all been good and I’ve picked up a lot of things from him in terms of movement, where to run and when to run. He’s definitely been a help.”

Of course, while all eyes will be on Ibrox tomorrow as Strachan and McLeish – former team-mates and long-standing friends – lock horns for the first time, those in the Hoops boss’s home town of Edinburgh will be quick to point out that neither Celtic nor Rangers go into the game as league leaders.

Currently, Hearts lay claim to that honour and, while the likes of Alan Thompson and Jimmy Calderwood have this week played down George Burley’s side’s prospects of challenging for the title, Beattie considers that nothing can be ruled out.

“They’re a quality team,” he said of the Jambos. “They’re going to be tough to beat this year, but they were tough last season as well. We know what we need to do and, if we play to our capabilities, we’ll beat anybody.

“I don’t know [whether they can sustain their challenge]. It’s not happened for a few years now, but Hearts have started off well and they might be able to continue it. All the games are tricky and I think all the teams are capable of taking points off each other.”