Johan Mjallby was part of a Celtic team who won the league at a canter in 2002, but even now, the mention of that year sends an unmistakable wince across his face.

That is because Celtic’s success that season, even though they won the league with 18 points to spare, was soured a little as they lost the Scottish Cup final to Rangers – remarkably, the last time the city rivals met in the Hampden showpiece.

On the day, Mjallby admits that Ibrox boss Alex McLeish managed to get one over his old gaffer Martin O’Neill, exploiting weaknesses in his three-at-the-back formation and eventually lifting the trophy thanks to a dramatic last-gasp diving header from Peter Lovenkrands.

He is desperately hoping that the same thing doesn’t happen to Brendan Rodgers’ champions of 2024 this weekend, and frankly, he can’t see it. In fact, he says that if Rangers go toe-to-toe with his former side, and refuse to adapt their tactics, they will be in line for their fourth Old Firm defeat of the season.

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With the better players in their squad and the wind of momentum at their backs, a Celtic victory is, in his view, the most likely outcome. Unless Philippe Clement can find a way to nullify Celtic matchwinners like Matt O’Riley, Daizen Maeda and Kyogo Furuhashi.

“I would say Rangers have got more to think about,” Mjallby said.

“They need to play a perfect game tactically.

“Celtic are going in with the momentum and the way they’ve been playing lately, they know they get results the way they play. I think it’s more up to Rangers to change something to be able to win the game.

“They probably need to use their brains and their tactical nous a bit more to win the game.

“I see Celtic as favourites because of the current form but it’s such a great game, the atmosphere is going to be brilliant. It’s obviously the two best sides in the country going up against each other again.

“The pressure is always there as a football player. It’s the best ones who can deal with the pressure.

“Right now, I still think Rangers are probably going to play a pressing game. Celtic will play their normal way. They are an attack-minded side.

“They will try to press you high, but I also think you will see Rangers trying to press high early on and force mistakes from the Celtic build-up. They want to win the ball in good positions and try to capitalise on mistakes.

“I am not saying Celtic should win the game. No, Rangers are a good side. They have quality and physically they are quite good. They know more than Celtic how to play cynical if needed.

“But it will be difficult to stop the Celtic momentum right now, with the shape and form they are in.

“Celtic have so many match-winners and that’s why I see them probably winning.

“Rangers have more of a headache – and they need to have a really good tactical plan that works perfectly.

“Celtic can look back at what they have done well in the four games in the season because they came out on top.

“The momentum and confidence is there for Celtic, so they are favourites.”

Having won that league 22 years ago by such a comfortable margin, the fact that Celtic lost the Scottish Cup final was something of a shock, and serves as a reminder to Mjallby that his old club can’t take anything for granted on Saturday.

But he says that as long as the Celtic players maintain their focus, as perhaps the class of 2002 failed to, then they should have another day to remember against their rivals.

“You can [lose focus],” he said. “But realistically you shouldn’t.

“Playing for Celtic, we all knew – and these players will know – that you are there to win trophies. Playing for Celtic is all about winning trophies – as many a you can.

“Obviously the league is a top priority. This is obviously a bonus for them. They should be on a high and they shouldn’t lose any focus. They know what they have to do – bring another trophy into the cabinet. So, you shouldn’t lose momentum. That shouldn’t come into your mind.

“You shouldn’t feel that you are satisfied even if you have won the league, and it’s not by a landslide like this year. The team was wobbling a wee bit a couple of months ago. But they hit top form when it matters, like true champions. You have to say that they’ve been by far the best team in the country.

“In that 3-2 final, I am still not happy about the Peter Lovenkrands goal. We led 2-1 and still lost the game. The game was going to extra time and then Lovenkrands scored.

“Rangers back then started to understand how to play against us. We were playing a back three and they started to drag us out of position. They got us to go to places where you don’t really want to be if you are a central player, like full back. On that day, we maybe switched off a little bit, and Lovenkrands scored the winner.

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“That was such a bad feeling because we knew we didn’t have time to come back.

“But I am actually envious that I will never get the chance to go out and play in an Old Firm game again.

“It was two really strong sides back then. We knew we had to really play our best to win the Old Firm. That season we were superior in the league, but you see anything can happen in a cup final.

“All the talk about momentum can go out of the window. I can see it being a close game but with Celtic coming out on top.”

*Johan Mjallby was speaking at a Scottish Gas media event. Scottish Gas is the proud partner of the Scottish Cup.