Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers believes Rangers will have been “scarred” by his team’s dominance of the Old Firm fixture last season as the Glasgow giants prepare for their first meeting of the new campaign at Ibrox this afternoon.
Rodgers’ side enjoyed comprehensive success against their fierce rivals during Celtic’s undefeated treble-winning season, winning five and drawing one of the six clashes between the teams.
The sequence included two crushing 5-1 victories in the Premiership, as well as semi-final wins in both domestic cup competitions, with a goal aggregate of 16 to four in Celtic’s favour.
Rodgers accepts Celtic face a radically reshaped foe today, after Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha’s summer overhaul of the squad he inherited from Mark Warburton in March.
But Rodgers he insists the events of last season will still be in the minds of the home players. He said: “There will obviously still be scars there. There’s no question about that. If you’ve played six games and beaten an opponent five times and drawn once, been really convincing in a number of those games, then it’s hard not to feel something.
“It’s only natural. Players are only human. In that type of scenario, after the third or fourth game, there’s a feeling.
“It’s hard to explain but there’s a feeling of ‘Christ, what’s going to happen here?’. But we don’t think that way. We prepare for it as a new game and a fresh challenge for us. There are lots of new players in there who will be experiencing it for the first time. We’ll just prepare well.
“It’s a new Rangers team. In fairness to Pedro, for whatever reason he’s not liked what he’s seen in the group when he came into the club.
“He’s gone out and been backed really well by the board to bring in players of substance and quality.
“So, it’s a lot of change there. I always think it’s a new season, it’s only the beginning. So, the game should be a great one, like they always are.
“They all count but this is a different game, a different season.”
Rodgers is also hopeful there will be no repeat of the racial abuse directed at Celtic winger Scott Sinclair during the last Old Firm game of last season, which saw Celtic’s record win at Ibrox – 5-1.
Rodgers added: “There seems to be elements of that up here which, I’ve got to say, surprised me. It’s not what anyone wants to see in society now. You’d like to have thought that sort of discrimination is not there, especially in sport. These games are great, they’re passionate – so just keep them that way and above board.”