A year after saying that Celtic could beat Rangers blindfolded, Chris Sutton thinks the outcome this season in their Scottish Cup semi-final could be close.
The Glasgow rivals will meet 14 months after Celtic beat Rangers 2-0 in the last four of last season’s League Cup.
“I wasn’t being disrespectful when I said that last year,” said former Celtic striker Sutton.
“There was a big gulf between the teams. It wasn’t a contest then, but it could be this year.”
Sutton, who scored more than 60 goals Celtic between 2000 and 2006, thinks “the poor condition of the pitch” helped Rangers keep the score tight last season.
This time, he has been one of the critics of manager Ronny Deila despite his side leading the Premiership, while their Glasgow rivals have established a healthy lead at the top of the Championship.
“If Celtic don’t pick up, it could be close, but if over the next five or six weeks Celtic get their backsides in gear, they should win the game,” said Sutton.
Speaking at a charity event for the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow, he said that Celtic’s form is a concern.
“Celtic have regressed this season,” he said. “That’s there for everyone to see, but this cup draw could sober Celtic up.
“They haven’t performed well enough this season. That’s why the fans haven’t turned up.
“Fourteen thousand for the quarter-final against Morton is embarrassing, but for the players and the manager, this is their chance to kick things into gear over the next five or six weeks.
”Ronny Deila is honest and he accepts that performances haven’t been good enough.”
Sutton relieved striker Leigh Griffiths and left-back Kieran Tierney of blame, saying that the pair had been “outstanding”.
“But I don’t think the rest of them have been at the levels they should have been,” he said.
”It’s not just about pride and passion, it’s about boxing clever, reading the game and having the know-how to win football matches and Celtic haven’t done that for me.
”If you look at it player for player, if you gave Ibrox manager Mark Warburton the choice, I’m sure he’d rather take Celtic over Rangers.”
However, Sutton says Rangers’ chances will be diminished if, as expected, their top scorer, Martyn Waghorn, misses out with the knee injury picked up in the last round against Kilmarnock.
“They need a fit Martyn Waghorn for me if they are to test Celtic,” he added.
“They’ll feel buoyed after beating Dundee, but I still think Celtic are stronger.
“But they’ll need to perform. Unlike last year, in a one-off game Rangers have a chance.”