'Are we ready for Rangers? Yes': Celtic in buoyant mood ahead of next Old Firm clash

The most important game for Celtic is the next one. Not just because it’s a Scottish Cup semi-final, at Hampden, against Rangers, but that is a factor. But because that is one of the fundamentals Ange Postecoglou has drummed into his players throughout this season in seeking constant, weekly, improvement.

He said it after Saturday’s drubbing of St Johnstone too – insisting there is more to come: “There has to be, that’s been our mantra all year. We want to be better than we were the week before and that’s what we’ve been building towards.”

A 7-0 win will take some to improve on, but with an increasing range of options among the Celtic squad, the players were not just dismantling St Johnstone, improving upon their Old Firm win at Ibrox the week before, they were laying down a marker for their continued involvement in Postecoglou’s first team.

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The growing strength in depth was evidenced by the substitutions. Two, Liel Abada and Matt O’Riley, found the net with three second-half goals and competition for places is stronger still with the return of Kyogo Furuhashi.

“We have a lot of players in the squad and you only have to look at the bench against St Johnstone. We have boys who can come on and make the difference for us. There is such strength and depth in the team,” said Josip Juranovic, scorer of the other second-half goal, an early penalty to make it 4-0. “Even in training every day, the boys have to be at their best as we are fighting to get a place in the team. Because of that it helps the team reach high standards.”

It was something Postecoglou mentioned afterwards too, the quality of sessions in the build-up to St Johnstone contributing to the effort put in on the day. Saturday hit a high-water mark with this season’s record cinch Premiership score, but taking it game by game with constant improvement is fast becoming session by session for each player attempting to catch the manager's eye at Lennoxtown and get involved with two trophies still on the line.

“There is competition for places but we don’t see it like we fighting each other,” added Juranovic. “We have friendships and we will give everything for each other on the pitch.

“It doesn’t matter if I am on the bench and Anthony Ralston is playing, we know we have that quality player playing instead.

Celtic's Josip Juranovic (right) celebrates his side's fourth goal against St Johnstone and says his team-mates are ready for Rangers in the Scottish Cup next weekend. (Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire).

“That’s what happens at a big club like Celtic. We know we need to continue this now.”

He cites the game-by-game mantra and focus shift onto the next one which, of course, is Hampden against their rivals.

“The Rangers game is the biggest derby in the world and we can’t wait for it,” he added. “We know it will be a tough game again, but we need to take care of ourselves and see where it takes us.

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“The cup game will be different as it will be 50/50 in terms of fans. It will be a new experience but a great atmosphere and I can’t wait for it.

Substitute Matt O'Riley (L) celebrates making it 6-0 with Josip Juranovic. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

“The small details in these games can decide the result and we know that. We will look at them this week and prepare for next Sunday.

“Are we ready for Rangers? Yes.”

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Juranovic says the strength of Celtic's bench shows the depth of the squad and competition for places. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

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