An ongoing record of 40 unbeaten matches against domestic opposition suggests that anyone who is finally going to put one over on Brendan Rodgers this season will have to get up pretty early in the morning.
Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha, it seems, is taking that old idiom literally as he attempts to bring an end to Celtic’s invincibility in Scottish football under Rodgers this weekend. The Portuguese coach has revealed he clocks in for work at around 5.30am, sometimes not leaving the Rangers training ground until late in the evening, while he implements what he describes as his “detail-orientated” philosophy on the club. In seeking to plot Celtic’s downfall in Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden, that process for Caixinha has involved close study of his opponents’ matches in the group stage of this season’s Champions League.
It is the only tournament where the Scottish champions have experienced defeat under Rodgers so far, prompting Caixinha to reason it offers him the best insight into identifying any of their potential vulnerabilities. Asked what occupies his time while the dawn chorus is still in full throat, Caixinha said: “We analyse our team, we analyse the opponents, we prepare the training sessions, we organise the way we want the team to play.
“To have an idea of all the opponents we have faced so far, in domestic games, we have the footage and the videos of their last five or six matches. That has been enough.
“For Celtic, we need to go further, to the Champions League games. The reason why is very clear. It’s because along this season they were not forced to act in some circumstances and those circumstances happened only in the Champions League matches.
“Now, we are the only team in Scotland defending zonally on corners, so we know that Celtic is not used to it. But in the Champions League games, you saw them doing it against Barcelona and Manchester City. In domestic competition they are not defending that much – they are more attacking. So if they need to really defend where are the spaces we can exploit? Those things take time to think about. So it’s not only about starting at 10 o’clock with a training session, or just arriving here at 9am and having breakfast, and then going to the training session or allowing your coaches to do the training for you. I’m not that sort of guy.
“I’m a guy who needs to have everything under control and things need to be from my leadership and after that I will share that leadership with the guys who are performing with me on the pitch, the coaches and the players. I’m a guy who works from a to-do list. When the list is complete, I go. Yesterday for example was the earliest day I left since I arrived here. I arrived here at 5.30 in the morning and I left at 6pm.
“Sometimes I’m the first one in, but the other guys from my staff are coming here very early too. I don’t have my own keys for the front door but Stevie the doorman is always here!
“When I need to work and I need to clarify my ideas the office is the best place to do it, and early in the morning when I have no-one down there, that’s when I try to do it. When I go home I don’t take homework. I used to do it before but I don’t do it anymore. If I have to get up early in the morning and come here, that’s what I do. When I need to work, it is from 5am to 5pm, 8pm or 10pm – whatever I need.
“But when I need to switch off, I switch off. I try to do that on a daily basis, because we are all creatures of habit. That’s my habit. I’ve always done this, since I arrived at Sporting Lisbon in 2003. I’m not changing anything now. I’m not doing this just because I’m at Rangers. Wherever I have been, it was exactly the same.
“To do my job for the game is not just all about arriving at the match meeting and saying ‘we are going to play this way’. We are testing things throughout the week and there is a lot of work to prepare. That’s why I need to spend so much time at the training ground. You need to analyse, you need to take decisions. I’m always one who believes that the more information you have, the better decisions you are able to take. That’s why I’m always looking to be so detail-orientated.”
As obsessive as that may sound, Caixinha has no worries about the work-life balance he is able to strike.
“I have no problem switching off,” he added. “If I have time, I like to go for a nice dinner with the family. That’s what I like to do, to discuss some family matters. I also had two days off before we started training this week and I went to Edinburgh and switched off completely.
“How do I deal with the stress of the job? It depends – you have two types of stress. The good stress and distress. I feel good. I’m not anxious about the game. I just focus on doing my job.”
Caixinha is relishing the prospect of locking horns with Rodgers for the first time and expressed his admiration for the man who has revitalised Celtic so impressively this season. “It’s not a question of looking up to other coaches but I respect Brendan,” said Caixinha. “He’s had a huge career for someone who is younger than me – he’s known worldwide – so I need to respect him and especially what he is doing with his team.
“I haven’t analysed his previous teams, like Liverpool. But this Celtic team plays very good football and has a clear idea about what the coach wants. So I respect him because he’s doing a fantastic job. But now it is time to face him.”