PLENTY of Glaswegians could learn a thing or two from the way the city’s Croatian contingent tackle Old Firm day. A week ago, Nikola Katic and Filip Benkovic were seated at church together. Today, along with their compatriots Borna Barisic and Jozo Simunovic, they will be sworn enemies in the last Glasgow grudge match of the season.

These best buddies from the Balkans catch up over a coffee regularly, even if football tends to be the last thing that crops up. Having a mutual support network to rely on when you are embarking on a career in a foreign footballing culture doesn’t mean there won’t be some fearsome grappling today as these warlike specimens attempt to get to grips with each other from respective set pieces.

“When I arrived here, I already knew Jozo and Filip from the national team and we were friends,” says Katic. “It was important to have friends in Scotland because this is a big club and at first I was alone.

“The first two months I just spoke with Jozo,” he added. “I didn’t know if it was the right thing or not to socialise but as soon as Borna arrived we started to go out a bit more.

“We are friends off the pitch but on it we give everything for our clubs and I am only looking out for Rangers. I don’t care who is Jozo and who is Filip and they don’t care who is Niko. I will give everything to stop them and help us to win the game.

“Football is off the table when we are out. We talk about women, about countries, about holidays. We ask each other how the game is, the answer is ‘I played good’ for about two minutes and then we move on. So I haven’t tried to get any secrets. There is too much football throughout the year, you can get tired of it sometimes and so we find other things to talk about. But we always support each other mentally. Jozo has more experience then me, so does Borna, I am the young lad. They helped me when I was out.”

Katic has formidable raw materials to work with, even if he has shown just glimpses this season of the player he can become. Potent in either box and a strong one-on-one defender, he appeared set to take the Scottish league by storm with the manner he started the season but it is only recently that things have picked up again after a mid-season dip. If the 22-year-old could use the ball more confident on his left side in particular he would have pretty much the full package. But sitting on the bench on December 29 as Rangers overcame Celtic was when and where it crystallised in his brain that he would have to fight for his Ibrox career. Consequently, he is unfazed about the fact the club appear to be sourcing further reinforcements at the back, even if one of their target, Mexer, opted for Bordeaux.

“I was on the bench. that game and the game against Rapid, last ten minutes, is the best atmosphere I have ever felt,” says Katic. “That day I told myself, I need to fight for this. I wanted to be here on the next game so that’s one of the things I put in my head.”

Having played just one Old Firm match in his maiden season - the single-goal defeat at Celtic Park earlier in the season - no wonder he wants some glory of his own. “The last game at Celtic Park, too, I felt we were the better team,” he said. “We conceded a stupid goal near the end but I think we played the much better football after going to ten men. I think we deserved more than we got in the end.”

Katic and Benkovic will be in Italy this summer, as part of Croatia’s European Under-21 championships defence, where they will play against England and France in the group stages. “Jozo And Borna will go on their holidays but me and Filip won’t get any this year,” said Katic. “I’m not sure if we will be the centre-back pairing for Croatia because we also have Caketa-Car from Marseille who is a very good player.

“Simunovic is a really good player. I know him from Dynamo Zagreb. He has had a lot of problems with the knees but now he is playing really well again. He has scored a couple of goals in the last few matches and I watched him against Aberdeen and he looked really good on the pitch.

“It will be a challenge for our strikers to face him but if we play the way we did in the last Old Firms we will take the three points. He and Ajer are good in the air so we will speak with our coach and decide how to defend them at set-pieces. I can advise our strikers about his weaknesses. We will definitely speak about that.”