WHEN Pedro Caixinha was questioned about the intensity of scrutiny on him earlier this season, the Portuguese produced a bizarre analogy about a balloon.

It wasn’t a contender for first place on the list of weird and wonderful things Caixinha came away with, but it was in with a solid shout for a spot in the top ten.

Putting his hands to his lips, he blew air into an imaginary balloon and stated: “I don’t know what that word means. I don’t know what pressure means. I’ve never understood what it means.

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“Pressure for me is a physics concept. So I don’t know what it means. I know that I have a responsibility by being in this chair since the first day I arrived here. I know how massive my challenge, responsibility and work are. I’m glad to try to do it in the best possible way. That’s all I can tell you.

“My work is to blow the balloon. The air goes out of it for everyone when you have bad results but I don’t take that as a pressure.”

It safe to assume that Graeme Murty won’t follow his predecessor’s example and talk the same amount of hot air in the build-up to Sunday’s Old Firm showdown at Ibrox.

Victory for Rangers wouldn’t burst Celtic’s bubble, but Murty would have the sharp end of the pin primed for what could be a remarkable finale to an extraordinary campaign for the Light Blues.

The build up to derby day is always prolonged and the anticipation towards the third meeting of the season is greater than any Old Firm encounter for some time.

It was kicked-off yesterday when Brendan Rodgers claimed all the pressure was on Rangers due to their inconsistent Ibrox form, while he asserted that the side across the city are at their strongest since he was appointed at Parkhead.

Come Sunday, the mind games and phoney wars will have reached a crescendo just in time for the real action to get underway. It will be intriguing to see how both managers handle it all.

Murty has rightly earned plaudits for his two derby experiences, but if he can make it third time lucky and beat Celtic then the narrative of a potential title race will gather pace in both the blue and green halves of Glasgow.

Sunday is the biggest day of Murty’s managerial career but in many ways he could see it as a free hit, a shot to nothing. He has plenty to lose, of course, but he has so much more to gain.

The opposite is true of Rodgers, though, and a first derby defeat would put him in a situation he hasn’t encountered since he moved north of the border.

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He would, rightly, still be more than confident of going on to land a second consecutive Premiership title and the ambition of back-to-back Trebles is still alive for the Northern Irishman.

But a three-point gap, albeit with a game in hand, would put Rangers a bit too close for comfort, especially when Murty’s side would have a chance to go level at the top of the table before Celtic make the tricky trip to Fir Park the following weekend.

The chances of Rangers clinching the Premiership crown remain slim but the fact that they are even in contention after another rollercoaster campaign has given the Light Blue legions a reason to dream.

In the last two terms, Rangers haven’t had a manager that was capable of making Rodgers think about the ifs, buts or maybes of a challenge or of exerting any pressure on the Celtic boss either from the media room or the dugout.

Neither Mark Warburton or Caixinha had the ability or the authority and their respective sides wilted in the heat of Old Firm battle.

Murty may adopt the actions speak louder than words approach in the coming days but a win at Ibrox would be a significant statement from Rangers.

Few will expect them to win over 90 minutes, and there is almost no expectation from outwith Murty’s own support about challenging for the Premiership silverware.

That isn’t the case at Celtic, however. All the demands, all the pressure, are on Rodgers’ side, not just on Sunday but in the remainder of the campaign.

Given Celtic’s superiority, it would be folly to suggest that they will definitely crumble under the burden, but different questions are being asked of Rodgers and his players.

Only time will tell if they are answered as expected or whether Murty can put more air in the red, white and blue balloons ahead of a potential party this season.