Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers plays down Old Firm factor

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers oversees training. Picture: SNS

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers oversees training. Picture: SNS

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Brendan Rodgers will not get too excited about facing Rangers as he looks to guide Celtic to their sixth successive Premiership title.

The Light Blues are back in the same league as their traditional rivals after a four-year absence, with many expecting the Glasgow giants to fight it out to be champions.

Aston Villa have confirmed Celtic have made a bid for their forward Scott Sinclair, signalling their ambition.

And Rodgers is also battling on the European front where he described the Champions League play-off draw against Hapoel Be’er Sheva of Israel as “tough like the last two rounds”.

Ahead of the league opener against Hearts at Tynecastle on Sunday, Rodgers, who took over from Ronny Deila in May, was asked if Rangers would make the league more attractive.

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“I don’t see it as that,” he said. “My only attraction was Celtic, that’s why I came here, I came to Scottish football because of Glasgow Celtic, one of the great clubs of the world.

“If you are talking about big clubs, history, and fan base, talking about one of the leading clubs in the world then I came to one of them.

“Every team provides a challenge and a different challenge.

“It will be tight, it will be the usual suspects up there, Aberdeen have done well, they are out of Europe now so that might give them more training time, Hearts have been about it and will have a strong squad.

“Rangers coming into the league will fancy that they can do well and there are other teams who can make it very difficult for you. So I am really looking forward to it.”

Rodgers revealed Patrick Roberts is out with a hamstring injury which leaves him a doubt for the play-off games.

But the Celtic manager hopes to bring at least one new face into his squad this weekend and when the name of Sinclair was put to him, he said: “Scott is a player that I know well, of course I had him in at Chelsea when he was 16 years of age out of Bristol Rovers, I know him probably as well as anyone and I know his qualities.

“But there is a number of players that we are looking at and all of them we hope can improve the squad.”

The Parkhead boss said that Charlie Mulgrew, whose contract with Celtic ran out this summer, was training only with a view to keeping himself fit.

Rodgers is disappointed that Roberts’ injury, picked up in the 2-1 win over FC Astana on Wednesday night, leaves him at risk of missing the first leg of the play-off which takes place at Celtic Park on August.

He said: “He is probably going to be (out) the next two to three weeks, with a hamstring strain.

“They (the play-offs) are obviously not too far away. If you are asking me now, then he will probably be a risk for that I am sure.

“He was a real threat and operating at a really high level so I am really disappointed for him.

“Hopefully he can come back and pick up where he left off because he is a fantastic talent.”

On the play-off draw against a side who knocked Olympiacos out in the third qualifier, the former Liverpool boss said. “It will be tough like the last two rounds but God willing we can get through and achieve the object of qualifying for group stages.

“I don’t really know much about them to be honest but my concentration is on Hearts.

“I don’t think they are in season yet, Astana were 21/22 games into their season but it will be tough.”

READ MORE - Rumour Mill: Mackay-Steven to Ross County | Could Rangers replace kit mid-season? | Roberts out for 3 weeks

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