BRENDAN RODGERS praised the work done by his former Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard at Ibrox – but is confident his Celtic players will rise to the challenge in their bid for an eighth successive Premiership title.

The Hoops were runaway champions during the Irishman’s first two seasons in charge, but they went into the winter break tied on 42 points with the Govan side at the top of the table.

However, they sit at the pinnacle on goal difference with a game in hand while Kilmarnock are a point further back and Aberdeen three off the pace.

Rodgers admitted there has been an all-round improvement in standards that poses a threat to Celtic’s domination.

The Parkhead gaffer said: “There’s no doubt there’s a challenge now. I try not to overthink that and focus on ourselves. I concentrate on improving our standard – that’s what it will be about, ultimately.

“That was the same in my first year here when the gap was 20 points.

“Rangers have invested well. They’ve brought in good players. Steven has done really well bringing them together.

“Other teams are also up there and the standard of the league has improved, which is great for Scottish football.”

Rodgers tasted defeat for the first time in 13 outings against the Govan outfit at the end of last year when they went down 1-0 after 10 wins and two draws in his previous meetings.

Gerrard has strengthened his squad with the additions of with the experienced double-act of Steven Davis and Jermain Defoe.

Rodgers, too, has been busy, with a £2million four-year move for Ivorian international striker Vakoun Issouf Bayo and six-month loan deals for Scotland international winger Oliver Burke, from West brom, and Paris saint-Germain’s teenage attacker Timothy Weah.

American left-back Andrew Guzman has also been lined up and will arrive following the formality of a work permit.

The Hoops chief added: “When you lose a game to Rangers, things are said.

“But you must stay calm and focused on the field. The method is key for us, the way we work, and the continuation of that.

“We’ve been consistent over the last couple of years and we don’t need to change that. For us, the challenge feels good.

“It’s what these players always respond to.”

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