Brendan Rodgers warns Celtic history hunters of ‘pressure trap’

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Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers is determined his players avoid the “pressure trap” of facing the prospect of making history as they prepare for Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers.

Celtic could become the first Scottish club to win back-to-back trebles if they beat Rangers and go on to lift the trophy.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers won't let the pressure get to his players. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers won't let the pressure get to his players. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS

Rodgers, though, is keen to shield his squad from the strain of expectation which can accompany trying to achive such a feat.

The Northern Irishman recently claimed that a second successive clean sweep of domestic honours would trump the unbeaten “Invincibles” league campaign of last year but he does not want his men to be daunted by the prospect.

He said: “We still come in and enjoy our work. I tend not to think about the other stuff too much. If you do, and got wrapped up in the whole history or the expectation, then you put yourself in a pressure trap and you don’t need that. There’s enough pressure in football.

“The history is not weighing on us; we just have to do our job.

“We set our targets and goals and one of them is to win the league. The Scottish Cup is another – we wanted not just to defend the trophy but to win it again – but it doesn’t cloud our thinking.”

Consequently, Rodgers has told his squad to stay away from broadcast and print media as well as social media ahead of this weekend’s match.

Victory for Celtic would establish a new record of 10 games unbeaten in the fixture, another landmark Rodgers is keen to add to their list of achievements.

“It’s important the players relax and stay focused and avoidance is a good way to do it,” he said.

“Avoid all the newspapers and media. There’s always plenty of hype in these games but no matter the occasion, we don’t need to magnify a Celtic v Rangers match, whatever the competition.

“They are always big games. The key thing for a manager is to manage the players and that means doing that every single week, whoever the opponent happens to be.

“There’s no more or less [work being done]. There’s no travelling away. We’ll do what we do and look forward to it – and, hopefully, grasp the opportunity.

“Our recovery was done after Sunday’s win at Hamilton. We’ve had a clear run at it since so nothing changes. We’ll be relaxed and focused.

“We enjoy the big days at Hampden and we’ve done well there; hopefully, we’ll do so again this time.”

Rodgers’ side need one more win to clinch a seventh top-flight title in a row but Rodgers urged them not to let up even after that landmark is achieved.

He added: “I’m here to win, to get the team playing well enough to win. Hopefully that will continue in all of the games until the end of the season.”

Despite his side’s unprecedented dominance in the past two seasons, Rodgers insisted there is still healthy competition in the Scottish game.

He said: “There are really good coaches up here, Scotland has always produced outstanding players and coaches.

“You’ve got Neil Lennon at Hibs, Derek McInnes at Aberdeen, Steve Clarke at Kilmarnock, and there are lots of others.

“Of course, Rangers are a big club up here and it’s always traditionally been Celtic v Rangers but there are other big clubs as well.”