BRENDAN RODGERS has laid his demands on the line for his Celtic players as the title pressure ramps up.

The champions take on Motherwell in a High Noon showdown at Fir Park today as they aim to respond to their nearest challengers’ 5-0 win over Hearts at Ibrox yesterday.

The result in Govan sees the Hoops five points adrift with a game in hand and another 11 matches after that still to go before the curtain comes down on a topsy-turvy league campaign.

It’s clear the form of the Parkhead men has been far from convincing in recent times with four points carelessly shed in frustrating 1-1 draws with Aberdeen and Kilmarnock already this month where Rodgers’ side should have had both encounters just about done and dusted after one-sided first-halfs.

CONCERNED…Brendan Rodgers is alone with his thoughts as Celtic toil against Kilmarnock at Parkhead.

The 51-year-old Irishman, who won seven successive honours in his first stint as manager in the east end of Glasgow, has left his faltering stars in no doubt what is expected between now and the end of May.

After leaving the pitch to derision from raging fans following Killie’s stoppage-time equaliser, the strain is on the boss and his players to come up with the answers, starting against Steven Kettlewell’s side this afternoon.

Rodgers said: “I’ll be fine. For me, it’s about 38 games over a season. I’ve heard throughout my career that I’ve never had this before and never had that before.

“That’s normal. But it’s not my story. If you can’t handle pressure, especially at the biggest clubs, those aren’t the clubs for you.

“Go away, there’s plenty of clubs for you where it’s like a holiday. You play one game a week and there’s no drama.

“If you draw a couple of games and win eight, you’ll be held up there. But with the biggest clubs, that’s part of the deal.

“You have to be able to deal with playing home and away here. ”

SIGNS ARE GOOD…Brendan Rodgers celebrates in front of the Hibs message board after the 2-1 win at Easter Road.

Rodgers, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “In my experience of Celtic Park, it has been an amazing place to play. For players coming here, it’s great when you look on YouTube and see 60,000 fans singing You’ll Never Walk Alone or Champions League nights.

“But in the small print it says, by the way, there’s big pressure. Deal with it.

“You have to accept that as a Celtic player. You can prepare and can create an illusion for them of what it might be and might feel like. But not until you actually feel it yourself and go through the process, do you really understand it.

“That’s why I have huge admiration for players who come here. Because the expectations are so high, as high as anywhere I’ve ever been in my career.

“That’s why I’m always keen to support the players and bring them through that. Every man and his dog will criticise them now. It’s my job to help these players, especially when a lot of them are still young.

COME ON, THE CELTS…Brendan Rodgers lets rip with emotion at the end of the tense victory over Hibs.

“This is a journey for them, to come through to be a Celtic player. It’s all about time. It’s difficult for any player or manager to come into a club where the expectations are absolutely huge, if you’ve never felt or sensed anything like that before.

“At a club like this, that comes onto you pretty quickly. Then you have to get through that. So, this is all part of a phase of players getting used to that expectation.”

The defiant Hoops gaffer added: “I don’t need to remind myself that we can still win the double, I know that’s the case.

“To do it, you need to step up and meet the challenge.

“I can see the players are excited by that, as we all are. This title race is going to be brilliant for the league.

“And we know what we have to do.”

* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report and best in action images from Motherwell v Celtic this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.
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