BRENDAN RODGERS admits he is worried ahead of the first derby of the season at Ibrox a week today.
The manager saw his team fire blanks for the second successive game as they limped through an uninspired scoreless stalemate against St Johnstone at Parkhead yesterday.
The frustrating performance came just six days after the wretched Viaplay League Cup exit against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park, the Irishman’s first-ever defeat in a domestic knock-out competition after 24 successive victories in his first stint in charge.
ENCOURAGEMENT…Brendan Rodgers cajoles the Celtic players from the touchline.
Rodgers had hoped his players would come back with the perfect answer against the team that kicked off the match in the east end of Glasgow as the Premiership’s rock-bottom outfit.
Steven MacLean’s side had also been beaten in the Viaplay group stages by Stirling Albion (0-4), Ayr United (1-2) and Stenhousemuir (0-1).
They looked the ideal opponents for the champions to get into their stride before the trip across the city to take on Michael Beale’s outfit.
Instead, though, the hosts fumbled through a fairly dismal one and a half hours – plus eight added-on minutes – to register their first consecutive blanks since May 2018.
Asked if that was a worry ahead of the derby, Rodgers replied: “Yes, that’s certainly a concern.
END GAME…Brendan Rodgers can’t hide the disappointment at full-time.
“We’re creating opportunities and we got into a couple of good areas with Matt O’Riley and their keeper’s made a couple of good saves, but, in fairness, Joe Hart’s had to make a couple of good saves, as well.
“We need to have more of a killer instinct at the top end of the pitch and we’ll work on that.”
Rodgers, speaking to the Daily Mail, continued: “When you’re playing Rangers, whether it’s home or away, it’s the easiest game ever as a manager, in terms of motivation and commitment.
“It’s an obligation. You don’t have a choice in any game but, in particular, in that game.
“It’s always a challenge coming off the back of a season when you’ve won the treble, you’ve got to go again the following season.
“There’s greater expectation and more pressure on you. The fans will expect that – and rightly so. They were disappointed after the game and I’m fully aware that if you draw at home to St Johnstone you deserve that bit of stick.
“So, we need to improve and need to be better, for sure.”
IRISH EYES…Brendan Rodgers expresses concerns after the stalemate.
The second time-around Hoops gaffer did not attempt to make excuses for a lacklustre showing from his players and added: “It was a disappointing result and a disappointing performance.
“We had a couple of good chances and we got into some good areas. Their keeper made some good saves, but we lacked craft and that wee bit of imagination when we got in there. So, it was very disappointing for us.
“I’m not sure for the reasons for that. It’s something I need to go away and analyse in the game.
“We got into good positions, but there was no finesse on the pass or gave the ball away or couldn’t beat our man.”