Brendan Rodgers delivers clear message to Celtic players and identifies man he trusts

Celtic manager wants his players to stop being their own worst enemy

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has told his players to stop being their own worst enemies by finding consistency in their performances.

The cinch Premiership champions delivered their biggest victory of the season on Wednesday when they thrashed Dundee 7-1 with the help of six first-half goals, but previous league games since the winter break had all been tight and two draws saw Celtic lose top spot in the table to Rangers, who could go five points clear when they host Motherwell on Saturday.

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Celtic travel to face Hearts on Sunday – and they could be without their captain Callum McGregor – and Rodgers is looking for his side to build on their midweek display. “I have always felt our biggest enemy this season is ourselves,” he said. “If we perform to the level that we can do on a consistent basis, we are a very good team. It’s that consistency now of taking that performance into our next game.”

Tomoki Iwata has recently come into the Celtic team.Tomoki Iwata has recently come into the Celtic team.
Tomoki Iwata has recently come into the Celtic team.

McGregor was replaced by Daniel Kelly at half-time against Dundee, with the 18-year-old scoring his first goal on his league debut. “Callum came off at half-time during the week,” Rodgers said. “He felt his Achilles a little bit and his calf. I know from speaking to him, at this time of the year he does normally feel a little bit because he does play so much. So we just have to assess that and see where he is over the next 24 hours.”

McGregor has played further forward in the past two games after the return of Tomoki Iwata, who missed two months of action after picking up a knock. The Japanese midfielder has seized his latest opportunity after making only 10 starts during his first 12 months as a Celtic player.

“He anchors that midfield for us and allows Cal to move on,” Rodgers said. “He is a very good player but he has missed a lot of this season, moments where it looked like he was going to get his run in the team, he was out injured. So that’s been the challenging time for him and then it was just been about getting him up to speed and getting him in at the right time. I am really pleased for him because he has given his all in training and he has waited for that opportunity.

“This was a midfield that was very difficult for players to get into. If you look at Matt O’Riley, with all due respect, Matt wasn’t really starting last year. You had Callum, Reo Hatate and Aaron Mooy playing a lot of the games. He has come in and had a fantastic season, Matt, and Tomo has had to be patient. But I trust him, when he does come in. He plays the game simple, he is dynamic in winning the ball back and he has performed really well in these last two games.”