FORMER Celtic star Shaun Maloney has told his old club to prepare for a fight to the end if the bid for nine in a row.

The ex-Scotland international midfielder, now part of Roberto Martinez’s backroom team at Belgium, saw the champions move seven points clear at the Premiership pinnacle following their 4-1 victory over Hamilton Accies on Sunday.

Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox outfit stuttered to a goalless draw against Aberdeen 24 hours earlier – in a game where Dons’ top scorer Sam Cosgrove passed up two glorious opportunities – but Maloney insisted there will be a few more twists and turns before the silverware is handed over in May.

The former fans’ favourite, who had two spells at Parkhead, told the Daily Record: “Time will tell about how recent results will impact the title race, but history tells us that there will be plenty of moments like these again in the remainder of the season.

“We will see how Rangers come back from these results, but previously they’ve come back really strongly after these type of results.

“It’s been the same with Celtic and I believe as the season continues to pan out, it’s still going to be really tight.

POISED TO POUNCE…Patryk Klimala is still waiting for his first start.

“Celtic look to have really strong attacking options where they can change one, two or three players and still carry a real goalscoring threat. What we have is a fascinating league, we are all excited to watch it as it feels slightly different to this time last season.

“You see there’s a similar situation developing and Celtic finished that campaigning so strongly.

“From the outside, it’s an exciting watch and every weekend we see big moments.

“The pressure is so big that each game is huge and every result is scrutinised for days and that’s brilliant for the Scottish Premiership.”

The 37-year-old, who also had a stint at Aston Villa with Martin O’Neill, added: “It makes sense that both clubs try and come out of the transfer window stronger than they were going into it.

“It’s a harder market to operate as it’s mid-season and both clubs have attempted to strengthen.

READY TO GO…Ismaila Soro was on the bench at Hamilton on Sunday, but is eager to get involved.

“There will be relief that both teams have kept their best players, I didn’t think either Odsonne Edouard, at Celtic, or Alfredo Morlelos, at Rangers, would leave. I don’t believe that was ever going to happen.

“Both managers have their goals for this season and can’t afford to lose their best players if they want to achieve those goals.

“Looking from the outside, Celtic’s squad looks formidably strong.

They’ve recruited another midfielder in Ismaila Soro and brought in Patryk Klimala to add to their striking options, so that’s only enhanced their squad.

“Since they’ve resumed from the winter break they’ve used a variety of formations and systems and they look to have really good options within all of them. They’ve used a 4-4-2, a diamond, a 3-5-2 and a 4-4-3, so they have lots of options.

“We will see how the new boys settle, some players settle quicker than others.”

Polish frontman Klimala has made only two cameo appearances against Patrick Thistle and St Johnstone since his £3.5million arrival while £2million anchorman Soro has watched from the sidelines since his deal was finally finalised.

Neil Lennon could give one or both a run-out in the Premiership encounter with Motherwell at Fir Park tomorrow night.


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