Rangers may have fluffed their lines at Celtic Park but Ryan Jack has promised Giorgos Giakoumakis that the champions are ready to do more than just talk a good game this weekend.
Ibrox midfield ace Jack can’t get his head around why the outspoken Hoops striker would stick his neck out with those cocky comments he made a few weeks back.
Giakoumakis boldly declared his side were better than their bitter rivals in every department as he turned up the heap on a clash that is now at boiling point as tomorrow’s showdown approaches.
Jack felt that kind of big talk was “disrespectful” to a team who cantered to last year’s season title without losing a single league game.
But then, the 30-year-old Scotland star is also not the type to launch into wild declarations about ramming words back down the Greek striker’s throat, especially after it was his side who were left speechless as Ange Postecoglou’s rampant league leaders dished out a Parkhead pasting last time the sides met two months ago.
However, he was happy to put his name to this retort as he responded to Giakoumakis’ swaggering statement of intent.
“I don’t agree with it,” said Jack. “I don’t get that at all, those comments. I think it’s disrespectful to come out with that.
“But, look, it is what it is.
“We will go quietly about our business.
“We’ll do our talking in here, work hard here in-house and come Sunday we will be right up for the challenge.”
The reality is that Rangers have no choice but to meet fire with fire this weekend.
Defeat would all but kill off their 12-month reign as kings of Scotland while even a draw would leave Celtic with one bum cheek on the throne, given their three-point lead and superior goal difference.
Victory, though, would ignite renewed belief among the Light Blues legions that Gio van Bronckhorst’s troops were again ready to go all the way in the fight to retain their crown having been swatted aside with worrying ease by the Parkhead pretenders back in February.
Jack said: “We know where we are in the league. We’re chasing so on Sunday it’s important we leave everything on the pitch.
“Win, lose or draw the main objective throughout the season will be that we’ll never give up, we’ll never stop fighting.
“We obviously want to go out and win the game and we’ll do everything we can to make sure we send our fans home happy.
“The last Old Firm, we let ourselves down. We knew it wasn’t good enough, it wasn’t acceptable the performance we went out and gave as a squad and as a team.
“Since then we have been very good in Europe and had some slip-ups in the league.
“We know Sunday is going to be tough. There’s been a lot made around the game, a lot of talk.
“For us, we know the situation that we’re in in the league. We know it’s going to be a big match and a big ask.
“But we are in front of our own fans in our own stadium. It’s important we put on a show and show how much we want to fight from now until the end of the season.”
Gers were left short on cover behind enemy lines last time out as they walked out to a Bear-free Celtic Park.
This time, though, Celtic will have 700 fans for backing but Jack warned the travelling contingent to brace themselves for a repeat of the red-hot atmospheres that have helped his side scorch a path through to the last eight of the Europa League.
“We know what our fans bring, especially European nights and Old Firm days,” he said. “We know come Sunday the stadium is going to be rocking.
“We are going to have the stadium behind us and pushing us all the way. For us as players, it’s important we start the game properly and use that crowd to our advantage – get them right behind us. Come Sunday, hopefully we can make it a special day for them.”
Yesterday was April Fool’s day and the Ibrox supporters could be forgiven for thinking it was all a bad joke when they picked up their copy of RecordSport to see pictures of Alfredo Morelos hobbling through Glasgow Airport on crutches.
Confirmation from boss Gio van Bronckhorst that the Colombian was facing a “long-term” lay-off is the last thing they need as they gear up for a monumental month where their fate in three competitions could be decided.
“The feeling is that it’s a huge month,” agreed Jack. “The games are going to come thick and fast. Obviously we’ve got the league games, the Europa League games and the Scottish Cup to throw in the mix as well.
“We just need to make sure we give everything.
“We will fight and scratch for every point and for every match we go into. It’s important we are focused on Sunday and then we take each game as it comes throughout the month and try to have a successful month.
“Alfredo will be a huge miss. I think you can see when Alfredo is on his game what he can bring as an individual and what he can bring to us as a team.
“He likes the big occasion at Ibrox so he will be a miss. But his miss will be for other people to step up and help the team and show their worth to the team.
“We have got a massive game on Sunday and I am sure whoever the manager selects to step in will be eager to help the team.”