Rangers captain Lee McCulloch looking forward to Old Firm return

Rangers Lee Mcculloch (left)
Rangers Lee Mcculloch (left)

Rangers captain Lee McCulloch says his side “respect” Celtic - but they do not fear what the Hoops will do to them on Sunday.

Ibrox team-mate Stevie Smith admitted earlier this month that the Light Blues were dreading the League Cup semi-final clash with their Glasgow rivals.

The left-back made that concession on the back of four failures in crucial Scottish Championship clashes with promotion rivals Hearts and Hibernian.

But, ahead of their Hampden derby showdown, McCulloch insists he is scared of no-one in the Parkhead line-up.

He said: “There is no fear. All sorts of form goes out the window in Old Firm games so I don’t think there is any sort of fear at all.

“There’s respect but there’s never really any fear.”

But the former Scotland international did agree his side were underdogs going into the first meeting of the teams since Rangers’ 2012 liquidation crisis.

“Definitely - I think that goes without saying,” he said.

“Massive underdogs. But it’s good that we’ve got the mentality to show people we’re capable of winning.

“All the pressure is on Celtic. We’re not going into it relaxed but we know it’s an Old Firm game and a place in the final is at stake.

“It’s not for me to say [if there’s a big gulf]. We will see on Sunday how big it is.

“I’m not into all the odds. But all I would say is that it is going to be really hard for us. Just like it was in the past.”

The hype surrounding the game has reached fever pitch in the last few days but McCulloch rejected the suggestion that beating Ronny Deila’s men would be a bigger feat than reaching the 2008 UEFA Cup final under former boss Walter Smith.

The 36-year-old defender said: “The game is not as big as people are making out, not in my eyes. We’ve beaten Celtic before, so why can’t we go and do it again?

“To beat your nearest rivals means everything. But it’s never easy to win an Old Firm game. Never.

“These games are special - the biggest in Scotland. You would be lying if you said you didn’t miss them as a player.

“As a player you definitely miss the occasion, the atmosphere, the bragging rights for the fans. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime sort of experience. I can’t wait for Sunday.”

It was revealed this week that police officers have visited both halves of the Glasgow divide to caution them on the need to keep their behaviour in check.

A touchline clash between then Gers assistant Ally McCoist and former Celtic boss Neil Lennon during a fiery Old Firm clash back in March 2011 prompted a Government summit on sectarianism and the launch of the controversial Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act.

The authorities are keen to ensure there is no repeat of that kind of nonsense and McCulloch insists that message has been taken on board by his camp.