Brendan Rodgers expects more of the same from Rangers

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers is not expecting a dramatic improvement from Rangers at Ibrox. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers is not expecting a dramatic improvement from Rangers at Ibrox. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
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His Celtic team are only one game away from claiming all the honours this season. Yesterday, a case could be made to strike another medal for Brendan Rodgers after he deliberately avoided the easy platitudes about what could await his side tomorrow at Ibrox.

So superior were Rodgers’ side to Rangers in Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final, it seems improbable that Celtic could again be so dominant and Pedro Caixinha’s side again so supine.

Not to Rodgers though, it would appear. It was put to him yesterday that Rangers would be a different proposition this weekend, driven by the need for atonement after their Portuguese coach having said he was “ashamed” of how passive his men were at Hampden.

The easiest, most diplomatic response would have been for Rodgers to concur, to express caution about a reaction from a team desperate to deny their rivals a fifth derby victory and a 42nd unbeaten encounter as they look to achieve the unprecedented feat of a domestic campaign without defeat.

Instead, he effectively suggested that the mindset and make-up of the two teams meant there was no reason to suspect the pattern need deviate much from the semi-final.

“When I have watched the games that have been [under Caixinha], they haven’t really been a high-pressing team. If you think of the Aberdeen game [Rangers won 3-0 at Pittodrie three weeks ago], they sat in [inviting pressure], and only in certain situations they would come and press it. If they feel the need to press and disrupt our organisation, it can also be dangerous because behind that then leaves a big space and we have speed to break into it.

“I am sure their supporters will demand that they be better, they will want to be better, but we want to be better. We want to improve, to be better than what we were in our performance level but they are always great games.”

Rodgers refuses to see the derby as a meaningless one with 33 points between the sides and the league long won. “You can’t say you have made the Scottish Cup final with a great performance and now this doesn’t matter. Every game matters and in particular a Celtic v Rangers game. But also I prefer the players to have pressure because if you want to be at the very highest level you can be in your performance you have to feel the pressure.

“There’s external pressure because the supporters are demanding it; at half-time against St Mirren they were nagging on my dug-out to tell me, so it is definitely there.”

Leigh Griffiths will lead the line for Celtic following Moussa Dembele’s hamstring injury at Hampden. There may now be some hope of the 20-year-old recovering for the Scottish Cup final in a month.

“We’re just going to assess that over the next two or three weeks and see how he is,” said Rodgers. “He was on the bike cycling today.

“It’s a hamstring strain and some players come back quicker than others. We’ll see how it goes. If we thought there was a huge risk in it then, of course, you are only talking six or seven weeks before the first Champions League qualifier.”