Brendan Rodgers: Tight games don’t mean Rangers are catching us

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Brendan Rodgers has insisted Rangers are no closer to closing the gap on his dominant Celtic side this season despite the closely contested nature of the champions’ Premiership victory at Ibrox last month.

The Old Firm rivals meet at Hampden tomorrow in the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup as Celtic seek to remain on course for the unprecedented feat of winning consecutive domestic trebles.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers says it's only natural some victories will be closer than others. Picture: SNS

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers says it's only natural some victories will be closer than others. Picture: SNS

Rodgers is unbeaten in nine games against Rangers since taking charge of Celtic in the summer of 2016, overseeing seven victories – including two 5-1 drubbings – and two draws in a sequence which has seen his team score 21 goals and concede just six.

Rangers proved far more competitive in the most recent clash of the Glasgow titans, leading twice in a thriller, but succumbed 3-2 to a Celtic side which played with 10 men for most of the second half after Jozo Simunovic’s dismissal.

Celtic are currently 13 points ahead of Rangers at the top of the Premiership table, having scored three goals fewer than the Ibrox side. At the same stage of last season, Rangers trailed by 33 points.

Former Rangers manager Ally McCoist was the latest this week to suggest that proves the gap in quality between the teams has closed but Rodgers is dismissive of that notion. He said: “I have heard that ever since I have been up here.

“Every time we play Rangers, everyone talks about the gap. But we have played them nine times. You are not going to win every game 5-1.

“We won the Scottish Cup semi-final 2-0 last year and we murdered them.

“The week later, we won 5-1 but we played better in the 2-0 game. I also equate it to us against a team like Bayern Munich. We played them at home in the Champions League this season and played well but we lost 2-1. It was a good game, a close game. But I wouldn’t turn around and say we were much closer to Bayern because of it.

“Up here, you get the chance to play teams six times in a season sometimes. So you would think, just by nature, that at times you will become closer.

“But my only worry is Celtic, to try and create a new history at the club. This club has a wonderful history and what we wanted to do was use that as a motivation to create new history while we are here.

“In nearly two seasons now, we have been able to do that. We hope we can continue with that cycle, knowing that you are going to be challenged.

“You will be challenged by Rangers, but equally you will also be challenged by Aberdeen, Hibs, Hearts and Kilmarnock. They aren’t going to make it easy for you. I’ll never veer away from that. You can never become complacent.

“There’s a lot of talk of a gap and all this stuff but you’ve just got to focus on improving and being better yourself.”