Celtic will contest their 15th away game on Scottish soil this season when they visit Inverness on Wednesday. It is remarkable that Brendan Rodgers’ only other trip to the Highlands stands alone. A one in 14 because the 2-2 draw in September at the Caledonian Stadium marks the only occasion his team have not been victorious on their travels round the country.
A late equaliser from Richie Foran’s men denied Celtic the win that their second-half dominance seemed set to earn them. It is tempting to believe that the perfectionist Rodgers might still be irked by the one blemish in a 32-game domestic campaign, but he is more philosophical than that.
“We will lose a game, for sure. What we have to do is just resist as much as we possibly can. Perform how we want to and if we do that then we can’t do any more,” he said. “Every game that you’ll feel you can do better in you’ll always look back at and [in Inverness] that was a game, where of all the domestic games we’d had, we gave it away late on.
“But the response has been brilliant. We’ve got another chance to go up there this week and look to get another three points. At that time they were in a good moment and we were on the back of a 7-0 defeat [in Barcelona]. We played very bad in the first half and in the second half we were brilliant and how we didn’t win the game is beyond me. But we had an incredible reaction and now we’re in February having won 31 out of 32.
“[The players have] been remarkable in relation to their consistency and concentration. To sit here with the record they’ve had [for an unbeaten domestic start to a post-war season]. You’ve seen in the league how difficult it is to win games, no matter how well you’ve been playing because the next opponent is always a tough game.
“Even more so with the comfort we’ve had in points, that’s maybe the time you could slip up. But it’s never been the case, we’ve been very focused and we’re a very ambitious group to do well. It’s not just for this season, we’re preparing and developing something for a number of years. The focus has been great. Even the best teams can just drop off in any game and [have] something go against them but most of these players have shown a remarkable level of consistency and hunger on a day-to-day basis. How we manage pressure situations, how we cope with them, in terms of that they are working very well. The one thing you can’t control is things that happen outside of that. For us we just try and prepare as well as we possibly can.”
Celtic may have taken six goals off Inverness in the Scottish Cup three weeks ago, but then Rodgers acknowledged Foran’s team were in a difficult place. The win over Rangers on Friday, which followed a draw at Tynecastle, has put them in a different place, with the Highland club moving off the bottom of the Premiership table.
“They had a great response, on the back of losing six goals naturally a team tightens up. No matter how good you are, you have to defend and in their next games they’ve had very good results and our youngster who is on loan, Jamie McCart, has played very well. They’ll take comfort from the fact they’ve shown they can do it and they can be a tough team to play against.”