Brendan Rodgers has revealed he is anxious to ensure he does not short-change supporters at Celtic Park by resting too many key players ahead of Champions League duty.
The Scottish champions have already dropped six Premiership points at home this season in draws against St Johnstone, Hibs and Kilmarnock, either immediately before or after a European fixture.
Rodgers will consider an element of squad rotation again for today’s league meeting with Motherwell in Glasgow before Celtic face their final Champions League group stage game at home to Anderlecht on Tuesday.
A place in the knockout phase of the Europa League in the second half of the season is at stake when Celtic take on the Belgian champions. But, while that must be regarded as the priority for Rodgers over the next few days, he is also keenly aware of the demand to give the club’s season-ticket holders value for money at domestic matches.
“At the times I have made changes, a lot of them have been when we’re at home and we’ve drawn games there,” said the Celtic manager.
“So I’m conscious that we have 60,000 supporters in the stadium, the majority of which are ours, so I want to entertain them. I don’t want to use the home games as the one where there’s a comfort and we can make too many changes, because we have an obligation to entertain the supporters.
“We have to look at it ahead of Tuesday, for sure. It’s important for us to get through in Europe but I’m also conscious that over the course of the season we’ve won all of our games away from home, apart from Wednesday when we drew in Motherwell, but have drawn three at home.”
Celtic can stretch their lead at the top of the Premiership to seven points with a victory today as they face Motherwell for the third time in seven days.
Rodgers is determined to cool the fevered mood which has enveloped the previous two meetings in which his side have been awarded contentious penalties – the first clinching last Sunday’s Betfred Cup final success at Hampden, the second providing the late equaliser at Fir Park on Wednesday which extended Celtic’s record undefeated domestic run to 66 games.
“There are always emotions after games, especially when you lose a cup final, and that’s why I never go too strongly about what people are saying,” said Rodgers, before referencing a book written by sports psychologist Steve Peters, best known for his work with snooker star Ronnie O’Sullivan and British cyclists, for an analogy of the furore which has followed those matches.
“When the chimp calms down and you get the human side, it’s all okay,” smiled Rodgers.
“I try never to provoke the chimp. It’s all raging inside you – read the book, The Chimp Paradox.
“There’s no change from us going into this game. I don’t know what Motherwell expect but for me there’s nothing in it.
“I haven’t seen any big reaction. There were only 9,000 supporters at Fir Park so they make their noise, it’s a nice little atmosphere, but there’s no drama for us.
“Obviously they’ll feel hard done by. That gave them a cause to fight for on Wednesday but there’s no big drama.
“We had a good chat with their staff after the game and there was no issue. I’ll repeat that I think Stephen Robinson has done an excellent job there, got them highly motivated and committed. Yeah, they play totally different to us but their players, having seen them closely over the last two games, seem a good bunch of guys who want to work.
“They are no different to us in that we have a really good honest group of players who are playing in big pressure games every single time they play – and their behaviour and how they cope with that is excellent.
“If people have any issues with our behaviour remember we won the Fair Play Award last year. My notion has always been that the team always has to have values, and the first one is respect.
“There are three values in our team, which is respect, unity and excellence. All defined by the players and staff and I think how they’ve lived up to those values has been incredible, really.
“So we aim always to win but also, importantly for me, is to reinforce the values of the club, the team and always winning in a sporting way. That’s what we always try to do and if we draw a game or whatever we have to be honest enough and move on.”