Celtic told to ignore Rangers pressure as 'absolute machine' champs at bit for return

Coach Kennedy tells Celtic to ignore the noise and focus on performances

Celtic assistant manager John Kennedy has reminded the players to focus on performances and ignore the pressure over points.

The cinch Premiership champions were briefly ten points ahead of Rangers but that was cut to five points, with the Light Blues still holding a game in hand, following last weekend’s defeat by Kilmarnock. Kennedy feels Celtic are far better served focusing on their game ahead of Saturday’s visit of Hearts rather than obsessing over capitalising on Rangers’ Viaplay Cup final commitments.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Kennedy said: “The thing for us is just to concentrate on performances, not get drawn into ‘you must win every game’ and the pressure. We don’t want to get too caught up in ‘what is the gap now?’ and ‘we need the points’. We need to concentrate on what makes us a good side because when we come away from that and we start thinking too much, that’s when things slow down, that’s when you start second-guessing yourself. So for us it’s full committal to the way we play. We know if we do that properly, more often than not that brings the points, which obviously gives you the lead we are sitting with now.”

Daizen Maeda could be involved for Celtic against Hearts on Sunday.Daizen Maeda could be involved for Celtic against Hearts on Sunday.
Daizen Maeda could be involved for Celtic against Hearts on Sunday.

The Celtic coaching staff have reinforced the key principles of their game in the wake of their 2-1 defeat at Rugby Park. “It’s the same process as when you win a game,” Kennedy said. “There’s maybe the added pressure if someone is listening to what’s going on in the press, the media or fans and everything else. But ultimately when we get them in this building we can control the message, which is very much about ‘this is what we did well’ and ‘this is what we certainly didn’t do well’.

“Second half last week, we have addressed that. That’s an example of Kilmarnock putting a bit more pressure on us and coming totally away from the way we play. We end up in a game where the ball spent more time in the air than it did on the ground, and that’s not how we play. We lost control of the game because we came away from how we play, and Kilmarnock had a bit of pressure, but we know we can still handle that.

"We showed them examples of Atletico Madrid pressing us at Celtic Park and playing through it no problem, there were examples the other night, a very good side pressing, you play through that and created chances. It’s all in the mind in terms of that respect, and the players have embraced that and taken it on board. Hopefully, going forward, we can be really strong in how we play and our convictions in that.”

Celtic have since bounced back with a Champions League win over Feyenoord and have the added bonus of Daizen Maeda and Cameron Carter-Vickers returning from injury. Maeda has been out for six weeks with a knee problem and his absence has been felt. “We want to be as fast and keep the intensity of the game as much as we can, and Daizen triggers a lot of that for us,” Kennedy said. “He shuts down the times teams get to set up attacks, even if a team want to play direct, he can get to the ball without them being able to play accurate long balls. But on the flip side, he attacks the back line and penetrates any sort of space the opposition leave. So having speed in our team is really important and when he’s not there you recognise that, you sometimes lack in certain areas of the game. It’s good to have him back. To be fair, he’s an absolute machine. He wanted to be involved before now but we had to put the reins on him a touch because he still had a bit of an injury there.”