Brendan Rodgers has told his players to forget all about theRangers and instead concentrate on the Boxing Day match at Dens Park against Dundee, where the Hoops can increase their lead to five points and ensure that we go into the Glasgow Derby on Saturday as league leaders.
“It’s so far away, next weekend. These are always great games but as managers, coaches, players, the focus is purely on Dundee. We’ll recover, train and travel up there looking to get three points,” the Celtic manager said, as reported by Scottish Sun.
Yet Rodgers understands the significance of this game in the calendar and knows that getting the three points today sets his side up perfectly for the Glasgow Derby at Paradise in front of 60,000 Celtic supporters roaring the team on from the start.
“It’s a big part of coming to Celtic, to be involved in such an iconic game. But there’s no time to think. You always just have to think about the next game. As boring as that might sound, you just have to focus on the next performance,” Brendan said.
“We’ll look to maintain a performance level and take that into the Dundee game. Once it’s done, we can get ready for next weekend,” he explained.
Rodgers knows that three wins over the next week will re-establish Celtic’s dominant position in the Scottish Premiership after the shock of back-to-back league defeats for the first time in a decade, offered encouragement and renewed hope to Saturday’s visitors.
“I think the next three games are clearly important for us. December can always be a grind. It can be a real grind of a month with lots of games. You want the tempo and intensity. hat’s been hard for us at times, purely because a lot of the same players are having to play.
“We’ve not been able to jig it about. Against Livingston, though, the guys responded really well and we really want to keep that going into the next game now,” Brendan said.
“I’ve always enjoyed going to Dundee. The team has always played well and worked well there. The pitch is nice and big too, which suits how we want to play the game, so we’ll go there looking to win.
“Tony Docherty has done a very good job there. He’s been a coach around the game for a long time and it’s great to see him get an opportunity to manage himself. He’s done an excellent job. Whatever the pitch looks like, though, we’ll prepare for a tough game. We saw that when we played them earlier in the season at home. Even though we won convincingly in the end, it was a tough game, so we’ll prepare for the same.”
And the significance of Kyogo getting back in amongst the goals on Saturday against Livingston was not lost on the Celtic manager. The Japanese striker has been the main difference in 2023 for Celtic against theRangers scoring significant goals in every game he’s started against them and piling on the misery in the process. So to have Kyogo end his mini-goal drought just ahead of playing his final match of a memorable year against them is positive to say the least, for the Celtic cause.
“It was nice for him to get his goal against Livingston. He deserved that. He had some opportunities that weren’t quite there. He made some good runs and players were finding him. “It was nice for him to get that goal in the six-yard box,” Brendan said.