Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers will gladly accept a narrow victory over Rangers in tomorrow’s Betfred League Cup semi-final after acknowledging his rivals will be hell bent on revenge.
Rodgers enjoyed a dream first Old Firm assignment last month as he watched his Celtic side thrash Rangers 5-1.
While he knows tomorrow is a completely different game, at a neutral venue, the confidence generated by such a comprehensive, and recent, victory will remain a factor at Hampden tomorrow.
Rodgers said: “From our perspective, we’re focusing on it being another game but, when you play as well as we did in that game, it helps psychologically.
“When you’ve scored five and you could have had more and play like we did then you [already] know that you can beat the team well.”
But Rodgers is conscious Rangers have changed significantly, even in the few weeks since their last meeting. He would not be drawn on whether 5-1 accurately represents the difference in quality between the teams.
“That’s not for me to say – that’s for you to write or those who are watching to decide,” added Rodgers. “We can only win the game as we do and what the measure is is not a worry for me. If we win 1-0, I’d be happy.”
Rodgers stressed that his players can only take heart from the manner of the victory six weeks ago.
He added: “It doesn’t necessarily make it any easier but you know that you’ve done it. But it’s a different game, a semi-final.
“We know that if we play as well again we’ll have a great chance of getting through to the final.
“I can only judge them [Rangers] on the last time we played against them and we played very well. They’ve obviously got one or two changes now within the team.”
Rodgers, who will be visiting Hampden for the first time ever tomorrow, is prepared for a Rangers backlash.
“When you win the way we did in the last game it creates a big motivation for the opponents for it not to happen again, but both teams will go into the game looking to get the victory,” he said.
Mark Warburton’s side have improved recently, losing just once in six outings since their painful experience at Celtic Park. However, the Ibrox side were dealt a blow when Niko Kranjcar suffered a knee injury in training. Joey Barton, who started alongside Kranjcar in the last Old Firm clash, is currently suspended after a training ground incident.
Celtic, meanwhile, have one injury concern, over 35-year-old defender Kolo Toure, who suffered a difficult night in the midweek Champions League loss to Borussia Monchengladbach.
“He had stiffness in his groin,” reported Rodgers. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow. I gave him a big hug this morning! He’s at that age where you have to take it game by game how he feels.”