Brendan Rodgers wants title party before Celtic-Rangers clash

rendan Rodgers, making a point to Callum McGregor, says 'it has been a good week' following Sunday's victory over Rangers. Picture: SNS.
rendan Rodgers, making a point to Callum McGregor, says 'it has been a good week' following Sunday's victory over Rangers. Picture: SNS.
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Football supporters, especially those who follow big clubs operating under the kind of expectancy levels there are at Celtic, are hardly renowned for their patience.

Yet there has been a school of thought expressed in various quarters this week that fans of the Scottish champions would be more than happy to wait another week to see their team clinch a seventh consecutive title win.

The potential scenario which has created such chatter, of course, is the one which would give Celtic the opportunity to wrap it up with the additional schadenfreude of beating their troubled Old Firm rivals Rangers at Parkhead on 
Sunday week.

That will only happen in the event Brendan Rodgers’ men are unable to take advantage of their first bite at the Premiership post-split cherry when they face Hibernian at Easter Road tomorrow.

The Celtic manager, however, insists he is in no mood to put the celebrations on hold.

“I am a Celtic fan too but I don’t want to wait,” said Rodgers. “I want to win it on Saturday. If we can do it, great. It will be a tough game for us against Hibs, it’s probably the most difficult place we could go to win it.

“But if it doesn’t happen on Saturday, it is ok. We then go to the next game and if not that one, the next game again. The most important thing is to win the title and we want to win it as soon as we can.”

The Celtic training centre at Lennoxtown has been a buoyant environment for Rodgers and his players over the past few days as they have basked in the feelgood factor around the club created by their 4-0 defeat of Rangers in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden last Sunday.

“It’s been a good week,” added Rodgers. “Always, when you win a semi-final and play how we played and make your supporters happy, you can enjoy it for a day or two. But then very quickly you’re getting ready for the next game.

“We had a very good performance against Rangers, a very good result. There are still areas we analysed together that we can be better in but, when you play with that composure and take charge of a game like that under that pressure, those are great signs for me of the team 
getting better.

“There have been other games with greater scorelines against Rangers but, under the professional pressure of the game and everything that was on it, I think what pleased me really was the performance.

“Now you see our team playing at Hampden seven times and winning seven times, you see the calmness and the edge players are playing with but also the control.

“They took real charge of the game from the very first minute. When you take charge of the ball then you can control and take charge of the game.

“That intent, real ferocious intent, in our defending and our pressing, it was something we talked about before the game. To stop the long ball you have to counter-press the game hard so there were very few opportunities for that for Rangers.

“So,tactically, I was really pleased with the players. To play under that pressure with that calmness, again it was another problem that the players solved. Coping in that situation was really pleasing.

“I’ve got a brilliant group of players that are very honest and have great qualities. Off the back of last season, which was a historical season, they were being measured against that this season.

“We may not have reached the heights as consistently as that, but there are other factors within that. Some people say that our football hasn’t been as quick but I look at the weather conditions up here and the pitches have been slower and heavier. That’s making it difficult as well.”

As Celtic pursue the unprecedented feat of winning back-to-back domestic trebles, clinching the title as soon as possible may allow Rodgers to rest some players ahead of the Scottish Cup final against Motherwell at Hampden on 19 May.

“We’ll see about that,” he said. “We still need to work. There’s a balance. Obviously we’ve got some time to the next weekend but, either way, we can’t just stick the sombreros on.

“There are hard games leading into the cup final, which is a way down the road. The players will get a few days off but will be ready for the next game.”

Rodgers has also held talks with Scotland manager Alex McLeish, pictured below, over how many Celtic players will be included in the international squad which travels for the end-of-season challenge matches in Peru and Mexico.

With Celtic back to pre-season training in June ahead of potentially four Champions League qualifying ties, Rodgers suggested a compromise agreement with McLeish has been reached.

“I’ve spoken to Alex,” he said. “Some of our players might go away with Scotland, definitely not all of them. There’s good dialogue, though, but my job is to protect Celtic and the players. But I know every case is different, it depends on the individual player.”