CHRIS SUTTON insists Celtic players MUST stand up to be counted tomorrow – or face humiliation.

The Hoops have failed to even score a goal in their two losses against Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox outfit this season and, even more worrying, didn’t have a solitary shot on target in the first Glasgow duel of the campaign in the east end of Glasgow in October.

Neil Lennon was without key first-team men such as Odsonne Edouard and Ryan Christie, due to Covid issues, while Christopher Jullien and James Forrest were injured. Back-up wide Bhoy Mikey Johnston was also forced onto the sidelines.

However, there were no excuses for a wretched performance that gifted the visitors a 2-0 win to gain ascendency as the nine-in-a-row champions showed early signs of faltering in their quest for a historic tenth successive championship.

CRASH…Leigh Griffiths fires in a left-foot drive at Ibrox in January.

BANG…the ball smacks off the post after Allan McGregor got a fingertip to the effort.

WALLOP…Neil Lennon can’t disguise his anguish.

Dame Fortune snarled at the Parkhead men in the January 2 encounter in Govan when they dominated for an hour before Nir Bitton was red-carded and Callum McGregor deflected a right-wing corner-kick past Vasilis Barkas for the only goal of the game. Astonishingly, Gerrard’s outfit did not got an effort on the Hoops goal that day, but still escaped with three more points.

Now we are set for the third head-to-head of an awful campaign and former goal hero Sutton has warned of going through the term without a victory over the team who are determined to maintain their unbeaten Premiership sequence while celebrating their first championship success in a decade after ending Celtic’s domestic domination.

The one-time England international frontman looked at the upcoming fixture and said: “Celtic have already surrendered their huge advantage over Rangers this season and the way they are going they might have to give up next year, as well, which would leave them even further behind.

“The majority of the starting line-up could need replacing in the summer. If that prospect isn’t giving the Celtic board a jolt I don’t know what will.

SHOULDER TO CRY ON…the ball deflects off Callum McGregor on its way into the net for the only goal of the Ibrox encounter.

“In the meantime, the current side need to get through this weekend without being humiliated by the prospect of a whitewash.

“I’ve got no doubt Rangers will say the right things and talk about being up for it tomorrow, but I know from experience it’s just not the same once the title has been wrapped up.

“They’ve been playing with such an intensity all season, when you take away the need to win, or avoid defeat, then it’s only natural there is a slight drop off.

“Celtic need to show they have some fight left in them, though. It hasn’t been seen all season and they have woefully stepped aside to allow Rangers pretty much a free run at the title.

“But even the players who might be thinking about leaving need to make an impression. Odsonne Edouard needs to turn up, Ryan Christie, Kris Ajer, these guys have to show they are either worthy of a move or want to remain and play a part at Parkhead.”

Sutton, who netted two goals in his debut in the Glasgow encounter in the club’s memorable 6-2 victory in August 2000, continued: “A couple of derby wins won’t mean a jot, but it would at least be some kind of statement for next season.

PUSH OFF…Callum McGregor in a tussle with Steve Davis.

GREEK TRAGEDY…Vasilis Barkas is slow to react to Connor Goldson’s head flick at the opening goal in October.

“Even then it’s hard to say what that statement would be because there is just so much uncertainty around Celtic right now.

“There is going to be a huge overhaul in the summer, with players and staff coming and going.

“I would just like to see them get on with it. We are a month down the line and there’s still no sign of a manager or director of football.

“What happens if John Kennedy wins tomorrow, follows it up with a victory at Ibrox and he manages to claim the Scottish Cup?

“Let’s face it, there’s not much evidence to suggest that is going to happen, but what if it does?

“Would the board then think Kennedy is the man for the job in the long term?

“I don’t think that’s the way to go, but the longer things go on the less clear they look about the long-term plan.”

Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, added: “There’s no way they can appoint a manager now who has been out of a job for a while.

“If Eddie Howe walked in next week, the question would be why wasn’t he in the door getting to work a month ago?

“The fact he’s not suggests it isn’t going to happen, but there needs to be some leadership and groundwork laid for the coming campaign.”

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