Former Hibs manager Alan Stubbs has warned that if Rangers lose tonight at Easter Road they will realistically be out of the title race.

Celtic currently hold an eight-point advantage at the top of the table with Steven Gerrard’s side still to play the league leaders twice before the curtain comes down on the league campaign. And while the expectancy is that these are the games that observers will train their sights on in terms of assessing just what challenge Rangers can sustain, Stubbs believes it is more immediate than that.

Speaking on behalf of BT Sport, the 47-year-old pointed to the fact that Rangers have yet to win five successive league games this term but would need to win at least nine out of the remaining ten to seriously consider putting a spoke in Celtic’s wheel as they prepare for their eighth successive title.

“If Rangers don’t beat Hibs it is going to be very difficult,” said Stubbs. “If they lose and Celtic win on Saturday that will be 11 points. Rangers have not won five games on the bounce in the league this year. That tells you how hard their task is.

“I think to win the title Rangers need to win nine and probably all ten games. That is an enormous feat to achieve when they haven’t won five in a row in the league this season.”

Under both Stubbs and Neil Lennon, Hibs were capable of upsetting both Rangers and Celtic on home turf. Yet, against Celtic on Scottish Cup duty last Saturday night there seemed little genuine resistance from Paul Heckingbottom’s side. The new incumbent of the Easter Road seat is unbeaten on league duty so far since assuming Lennon’s position last month and Stubbs expects that there will have been lessons absorbed from his first meeting with one of the “big animals” in the league.

“To be fair to Paul it is probably the first encounter he has had against an Old Firm team and it is one that he will have to analyse and adjust to,” said Stubbs. “I would have to agree that it was probably the least impact a Hibs team has had against an Old Firm team for a while. Paul started really well with three really good wins and then he suddenly finds out who the two big animals are in the league. He will be in the process of trying to put his own stamp on the team and that might take a little bit of time.”

If last weekend’s game was notable for the ease with which Celtic booked their Scottish Cup semi-final spot, it also brought another unsavoury incident into the spotlight again. A glass bottle was thrown at Celtic winger Scott Sinclair as he went to take a corner kick with the incident one of many in what appears to have been a season of perennial chat around missile throwing.

And Stubbs was unequivocal about what sanctions have to be brought into place.

“There has to be a tipping point which I think we are literally at now,” he said. “It is difficult for the clubs but I think it has to come from above. To stamp this out and put that doubt in someone’s mind – which doesn’t seem to exist at the moment because nothing’s being done about it – there needs to be jail sentences.

“If someone is caught there has to be a life ban from football grounds and the prospect of prison. These things are being thrown with an intent – the people throwing them are not trying to miss.”

And Stubbs has also warned that there is significant risk to players if the behaviour is allowed to continue unchecked.

“You see coins and plastic bottles being chucked but to actually witness a glass bottle launched at a player…if that catches Scott Sinclair anywhere around the head area it could have fractured his skull,” he said. “It could have ended his career or worse – you regularly see people dying after they’ve fallen over and banged their head. Catching someone on the temple with a bottle could inflict brain damage and other liabilities. When you get to that stage then surely enough is enough.

“They can’t be thinking about the consequences. That’s why a precedent has to be set in terms of the punishment.

“Scottish football is in a good place at the moment but it seems that every week we’re talking about what’s happened in the stands rather than on the pitch. The thugs are getting away with it so they’ll keep on doing it until there’s a proper deterrent. There has to be some kind of emergency meeting to sort this out.

“Otherwise, another talking point will come up next week and this problem will be swept under the carpet. It has to be stamped out now.

“Is there enough stewarding inside the grounds? Is there a big enough police element and, if not, is that down to cost? In England there seems to be more stewards and fewer policemen at games.

“I feel sorry for the stewards because they’re paid a pittance - plus a free ticket – and they’re then asked to stand in front of these people and to try and stop them doing something wrong.

“That’s why a bigger police presence could be a factor in cutting this out. You can’t expect fans to self-police these things.

“If you’re a dad at a game with your kid are you going to confront someone – who might be a hard nut – who’s throwing stuff?

“There’s no way you’re going to expose your children to someone turning round and hitting you because then it turns into a mass brawl; it’s impossible.”