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Gap year

With 44 points separating top from bottom, this weekend's live SPL clash between champions-elect Celtic and relegation-threatened Dundee has the look of a complete mis-match.

Last Updated: 18/02/13 at 14:12 Post Comment

Barry Smith: still on a steep learning curve, says Andy

Barry Smith: still on a steep learning curve, says Andy

It's been that sort of season in Scotland's top flight.

Following the extraordinary demise of Rangers and the restructuring of Scottish football that saw the Ibrox club placed in the bottom tier, Dundee were given just over a week to prepare for life in amongst the top 12.

It's fair to say they have been out of their depth. Just three wins from 26 league games so far underlines how difficult Dundee have found the sudden adjustment to a more demanding environment.

Celtic, with the remarkable resources they have in comparison to everyone else, have built the type of lead in a one-horse race that hasn't surprised anyone.

Thankfully, their supporters have had a successful Champions League campaign to brighten their season.

Attitude

Despite the recent 3-0 first leg defeat at the hands of Juventus, the Champions League has provided tremendous highlights and as Neil Lennon said in the build-up to what was a magnificent atmosphere in Glasgow's East End, it's the biggest show in town.

The trick for Lennon and his backroom staff will be to ensure they provide Champions League football again next season as most Celtic supporters I speak to find it difficult to imagine their club without it.

On a number of occasions this season, Celtic have struggled to raise their game in some SPL fixtures and Sunday's lunchtime clash will be all about how Celtic approach this one.

If their attitude is spot on, then another six goals to match what they notched last weekend at home to Dundee neighbours United could be on the cards.

Tough

Dundee have their pride to play for and manager Barry Smith is still on a steep learning curve.

Just before the January transfer window opened, Smith's future as boss was debated in the boardroom and he was given the green light to continue their fight to escape the drop. In my view it's the correct decision.

Smith has shown himself to be capable of lifting a club from the depths of administration and putting a winning team on the park.

Being completely unprepared for life in the top flight was unforeseen and he deserves the chance to build a side that will be able to compete next time around.

This is a club that has come through really tough times with players being made redundant and Smith has shown enough leadership to merit a longer stay in a job he relishes.

What little quality Smith can call upon is hindered when injuries and suspension kicks in.

Compare that to Celtic who could easily rest 11 first team regulars and still have players of international quality on view.

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