BRENDAN RODGERS insists his Celtic players have the ability to respond to the challenges that lie ahead in the club’s quest for a twelfth title in 13 years.
The champions have lost ground at the top in the past couple of months and tomorrow night’s encounter with Hibs at Easter Road is absolutely crucial after the disappointing 1-1 stalemate with Aberdeen at Pittodrie at the weekend.
Rodgers has seen his side’s lead hauled back to only three points over their nearest challengers who face the Dons, under new caretaker boss Neil Warnock, at Ibrox this evening.
CAPITAL SHOW…Brendan Rodgers is aiming for a good performance and three points against Hibs in Edinburgh.
The 51-year-old Irishman looked unfazed by the situation as he admitted: “Listen, this team have the capacity to learn and improve – and I’ll keep working with them to do that.
“I said at the beginning of the season, to win any league you have to earn the right, but I also think competition makes you better.
“I spent enough years in the Premier League and see the improvements Manchester City could make because of the challenges they had around them and it’s no different to any league.
“Competition is the catalyst in order to improve and be better. There’s no doubt Rangers have done that, but, primarily, our focus in on ourselves and improving our own performance, that’s our only concentration.
“There are still so many games left. We’ve obviously dropped points and it’s not satisfying, but, knowing that, we maybe haven’t been as consistent as what we would have liked, but are still in a really good position.
“There are lots of points to play for and the best team will win the league over the course of 38 games.”
DEBUT GOAL…Nicolas Kuhn claims his first Celtic strike with the equaliser against Aberdeen at Pittodrie.
Reacting to the criticism from fans that has been directed mainly at the board, Rodgers, speaking to Sky Sports, continued: “Clearly, you’d prefer everyone being together, but supporters are entitled to make their opinion and always will be, especially the demands of this football club.
“All I can concentrate on is making sure the players have that clarity when they go into the games so we don’t focus so much on the mistakes, we look at how we could be better.”
The Hoops followers have been vociferous in their condemnation of the club’s hierarchy after what has been seen as an “underwhelming” transfer window.
German winger Nicolas Kuhn has arrived on a five-and-a-half year contract following his £3million switch from Rapid Vienna while Republic of Ireland international striker Adam Idah has joined on loan from Norwich City.
Both have the opportunity of making appearances in Edinburgh against Nick Montgomery’s side who were thumped 3-0 by St Mirren in the capital on Saturday.
FIRST FOOT…Daizen Maeda nets the first goal of 2024 with the opener in Celtic’s 3-0 win over St Mirren in Paisley on January 2.
Out, though, are crocked trio Greg Taylor, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Reo Hatate.
Rodgers welcomed Daizen Maeda to training today and he could figure tomorrow after returning from the Asian Cup.
The pacy winger made two substitute appearances for Japan before starting in Saturday’s quarter-final defeat from Iran, playing 67 minutes, and the Parkhead gaffer feels his player will benefit following his international duties.
Rodgers added: “Daizen is back, which is great news, and fit and healthy.
“He is actually in a better place now than he was when he left because he was still trying to get up to speed.
“He has gone away, trained, played some games. I spoke to him when he did come back and he feels ready to start if we need him.”
"The best team will win the league over 38 games" 💬
Brendan Rodgers says other teams performances don't come into his thinking as Celtic face possibly going into their game against Hibs second in the table 🟢 pic.twitter.com/P0f8O0DXvc
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) February 6, 2024