Brendan Rodgers has insisted he couldn’t care less if teams come to Celtic Park and pack their defence to try to sneak a result.
The Celtic manager says he relishes the challenge involved and invites opponents to “bring it on” if they feel this is most effective way of keeping the champions at bay.
Dundee were the latest to adopts such tactics on Saturday with Celtic eventually prevailing 2-1.
Celtic found Hamilton Accies to be another tough nut to crack last week in what was another narrow home victory by a one-goal margin.
With Partick Thistle, who are bottom of the Premiership despite Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Hearts, likely to try to squeeze the game when they visit Celtic Park tonight, Rodgers denied that this was a frustrating aspect of life as Celtic manager.
Instead, he claimed it can be exhilarating and a test of his and the players’ ability to counter such set-ups.
“I enjoy that strategic look at the game,” he said, with his team seeking to go 14 points clear at the top of the Premiership tonight. “How can we play against that? That’s why it’s so important that my team plays out of different systems because eventually, when we get in the flow of our game, then it forces teams back and we create chances and normally score goals.
“So if teams block out that space then you have to find a different way. The beauty of us now – and there’s still a way to go – is the tactical flexibility within the team is very good. We can play different structures, different ways.”
Dundee manager Paul Hartley could claim his tactics almost gained a result on Saturday. Had Faissal El Bakhtaoui not put the ball over the bar with only Craig Gordon to beat in the last two minutes Dundee would probably have left with a 2-2 draw after showing precious little ambition in the opening half.
Partick Thistle manager Alan Archibald, whose side lost 4-1 at home against Celtic recently, will have been informed that Dundee’s approach was almost vindicated and may well devise a similar gameplan for tonight’s top v bottom clash. So, does Rodgers find this frustrating?
“No, it’s brilliant,” said the Celtic manager. “Every manager, every coach has a different way. If that’s the philosophy of the opponent then you have to find the way to break that down and I enjoy that challenge.”
Rodgers has spoken before of his admiration for Archibald, whose side’s results did not reflect how well they were playing earlier in the season. This is Thistle’s first visit to Celtic Park this season.
“It’s never easy to come to a place like this here and play against a team like ourselves, especially with this momentum and mentality, but I like him,” said Rodgers. “I’ve watched his teams and how he’s tried to play. I think he’s a courageous coach.
“He wants his teams to pass the ball and open up, maybe a little more so at the beginning of the season than now. It’s difficult times when you’re at the bottom but you keep that belief. He does really well with the limitations he has.”
After making five changes for the visit of Dundee, with fringe players Ryan Christie and Gary Mackay-Steven among those handed rare starts, Rodgers confirmed he will make further use of his squad options tonight.
“I probably will look at some young players,” he said.
“We’ll see if there are any young players we can look at in the next few games. We’ve had a number of players from the youth team training with us and doing very well.
“This is what building a club is about, creating the hope for the youth players. If they don’t think they can play then why should you have an academy? That’s how I’ve always worked, putting young players in.
“But they have to be ready - not totally ready, of course - and show the ingredients that they can come in and play in the first team. That’s very important to a big club.
“You’ll see on Tuesday who is involved,” he added.