By Coral Barry
Niko Kranjcar wants Celtic to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League to give Rangers an edge in the hunt for the Premiership.
Celtic face Astana in the second leg of their latest Champions League qualifier, but have not made it to the group rounds for two years running.
Kranjcar hopes a Hoops success in Europe will result in a more tired and stretched Celtic side in the domestic league next season.
“Would Celtic being in the group stage help us with the title? It probably would,” said Kranjcar, as quoted by the Daily Record.
“But it’s down to us to determine how we go about our business.”
Celtic are aiming for a sixth title in a row, but several Rangers players have already made their intentions clear for the upcoming campaign.
Rangers were promoted into the Premiership last season after winning the Championship and are desperate to challenge straight away for the title.
Kranjcar says he sees the Old Firm duo being the top two contenders next season, but warned fans not to place too much significance on the inevitably feisty derbies to come.
“I expect Rangers and Celtic to be the top two in the league. But the Old Firm games won’t decide the title – dropping points in games you’re expected to win could be more important.
“Obviously all four games against Celtic will be massive. But it’ll be about concentrating on every single match that will determine where we are.
“As challengers, we’re definitely in a position to think that way. We have to put pressure on the champions to win every single next game. That’s the way we’ll go about our job.
“I honestly believe we have the quality in the squad to push for the title. Our goal is to win the league – that’s the mindset and approach we must have.”