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Mendes: We must win

Pedro Mendes admits Rangers cannot afford to lose when they host Celtic in the first Old Firm derby of the season on Sunday.

The Scottish champions head into the clash at Ibrox trailing their bitter rivals by four points in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League and knowing an even greater deficit would be seen as a major setback.

Such a scenario is one which Mendes is keen to avoid but, regardless of the SPL table, he insists defeat in the famous fixture is simply not an option, no matter the stakes.

"We are in second position and we are four points behind so of course it's a game we need to win,'' he said. It's an early stage of the season and if it were the other way around and we were sitting on top by four points and won, it would mean nothing. It would be another three points.

"But in an Old Firm game, there is much more than three points at stake. It's just a game we want to win.'

However, Mendes believes victory would provide a major psychological boost for a team who have been toiling in recent weeks.

He said: "A win is always a win. But I can't deny the psychological part would be a big boost for the team if we won it. We are looking for a good performance for the fans and hopefully it will be enough to win the game. Then we can go into the next game with the morale high - that's what we want.''

Both teams head into Sunday's match following disappointing results in European competition midweek.

Rangers suffered a 4-1 defeat to Sevilla in the Champions League, before Celtic were held to a 1-1 draw by Rapid Vienna in the Europa League.

But, as far as Mendes is concerned, those results will have no bearing on the game when the teams clash this weekend.

"You can't say we are on top form but in an Old Firm game there can always be an edge and results in the past count for nothing. No matter where we are at the moment, and where they are, it will be a special game for both teams.''

Mendes has now been involved in several meetings with Rangers' arch-rivals and believes one aspect of the occasion stands out above everything else.

"Most of all it's the atmosphere,'' he said. "The fans are unbelievable and it's quite a unique derby. Sometimes the football is not the best because it is such an emotional game and everything is under the skin and the thinking is not the best.

"All the things that surround the games are just unbelievable. It's pleasure to be involved. I think a game like this shows the passion the Scottish fans have for the game. No-one can deny that: the Scottish fans love the game.''

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