ANGE POSTECOGLOU acknowledges the atmosphere at Parkhead is likely to reach stratospheric levels this afternoon.
The champions have the opportunity to soar 12 points ahead of their nearest challengers from Ibrox with a win in front of a sell-out 60,000 in the third Glasgow derby of the campaign.
However, Postecoglou remains grounded as he concentrates completely on the immediate task.
The Celtic boss said: “It will be exactly three points. If we win the game, it furthers that distance with games running out and we understand that it could have a major impact in terms of the end of the season, but, ultimately, nothing gets decided on the weekend.
“The players understand that and they’re really good at focusing on what’s before us right now and that’s playing the team closest to us and we have an opportunity to extend our lead at the top.
“Irrespective of the outcome, we still need to follow up the next weekend and perform again.”
The Hoops gaffer will be without the services of Reo Hatate as well as Liel Abada and James Forrest, but on the plus side Aaron Mooy, who has missed the last two games against Hibs and Ross County, and Greg Taylor, who limped off in the second-half in Dingwall on Sunday, are available.
The hosts kicked off the derby confrontations with a 4-0 romp in September and fought out a 2-2 stalemate in Govan at the start of 2023.
Now the 57-year-old Greek-Australian gaffer is aiming for three more points with only seven games to play after this latest instalment in the Glasgow head to heads.
Postecoglou admitted he was well aware of what these matches were all about when he and his dad watched the televised encounters in Melbourne.
As Australia’s international boss his interest was sharpened when he kept at an eye on the exploits of Tom Rogic at Parkhead.
Postecoglou, speaking to Celtic TV, continued: “Of course, I watched it when it was on and it’s one of those fixtures that globally attract attention.
“It’s a historical game in terms of derbies and how much it means to the city.
“At our place, the atmosphere will be fantastic. The games we’ve had there have been really good in terms of the energy created by our supporters.
“It just adds to the spectacle and I’m looking forward to experiencing that again.
“You expect a tough game as they are a very good side. It’s a big game and in all big games there’s a bit of an edge to them and both teams can have their moments and it won’t be any different.
“I’m looking forward to it and these are the games, particularly at home where it should be a cracking atmosphere, and the players involved are looking forward to the contest.”
On the failure of Hatate to win his fitness battle, Postecoglou added: “He tried to be available, but it hasn’t quite worked out, so you’re always disappointed for the player.
“From a team perspective, we get Aaron back which is great for us and we have good quality in the middle of the park, so we’re still confident the team we put out there will be able to perform to the levels we need.
“All we can do is play the game and I think play it with a mentality of being really competitive and trying to perform to the best of our ability.
“We don’t think we have to do anything different in the way we approach the game. We want to put our best foot forward and excite our fans.”
* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report and best action images from Celtic v Rangers this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.