BRENDAN RODGERS is preparing for his fifth derby encounter since his return to Celtic when he leads the champions to Hampden for Saturday’s Scottish Cup Final showpiece against Philippe Clement’s Ibrox outfit.

The Irishman has enjoyed three wins and a draw in the previous meetings and got his second coming off to a perfect start in Govan on September 3 last year when Kyogo Furuhashi flashed in the only goal of a dramatic confrontation.

And the Japanese ace repeated the feat with the winner at Parkhead on December 30. Paulo Bernardo thundered the hosts into the lead and his prolific team-mate doubled the advantage before James Tavernier claimed a consolation goal for the visitors near the end.

A stoppage-time equaliser in the 3-3 stalemate at Ibrox on April 7 prevented a hat-trick os success, but normal service was resumed in the east end of Glasgow earlier this month with a 2-1 triumph.

PARADISE…Brendan Rodgers acknowledges the Celtic fans after the 2-1 derby triumph on December 30.

In his first stint as Hoops gaffer, Rodgers faced Ibrox opposition 13 times. He celebrated TEN wins along with two draws and a solitary loss.

During that equence, the manager watched his team hammer THIRTY-ONE goals into their rivals’ net with only seven conceded.

In another CQN EXCLUSIVE, as we kick off the countdown to Saturday’s grand finale at the national stadium, we turn the spotlight on the Irishman’s odyssey so far.

Today, we look at Rodgers’ unforgettable derby debut and the two follow-up games.

HAT-TRICK HERO…Moussa Dembele celebrates his devastating derby debut.

September 10, 2016, Premiership:

CELTIC 5 (Dembele 3, Sinclair, Armstrong), Rangers 1 (Garner)

YOU only get one chance to make a first impression – and Celtic’s new manager Brendan Rodgers and Moussa Dembele, his summer signing from Fulham, certainly didn’t disappoint.

The Hoops ran amok as they walloped Mark Warburton’s side with the French striker thundering in the first hat-trick in this fixture since Stevie Chalmers managed the feat in 1966, coincidentally in another runaway 5-1 success for the hosts.

Scott Sinclair and Stuart Armstrong joined the goal spree in the second-half while Joe Garner claimed the visitors’ consolation effort.

It was the start of something good for Rodgers and Celtic.

TEAM: De Vries; Lustig, Toure, Sviatchenko, Tierney; Brown (sub: McGregor), Bitton; Forrest (Roberts), Rogic (sub: Armstrong), Sinclair; Dembele.

FRENCH FANCY…Moussa Dembele flicks the ball past bamboozled Ibrox keeper Matt Gilks for the winner in the League Cup semi-final. Defender Rob McKiernan can only look on in admiration.

October 23: League Cup semi-final:

CELTIC 1 (Dembele), Rangers 0

MOUSSA DEMBELE was the man who put the anxious Ibrox side to the sword in a tight League Cup semi-final encounter at Hampden.

The tie was edging towards extra-time when Leigh Griffiths whipped over an inviting low ball from the right.

The powerhouse frontman got free of his markers for a split-second and that was all Dembele required to flick the ball cheekily between his legs past the flummoxed Matt Gilks for the winner.

Rodgers picked up his first piece of silverware a few weeks later when the Hoops overwhelmed Aberdeen 3-0 in the showpiece showdown.

TEAM: Gordon; Lustig, Simunovic, Sviatchnko, Tierney; Brown, Bitton (sub: Armstrong); Forrest (sub: Gamboa), Rogic (sub: Griffiths), Sinclair; Dembele.

GOVAN GLEE…Scott Sinclair slides the winner past Wes Foderingham to make it a Happy Hogmanay for the Hoops.

December 31: Premiership:

Rangers 1 (Miller), CELTIC 2 (Dembele, Sinclair)

THE hosts had no answer to mighty Moussa who was on target for a third successive derby as Celtic brought down the curtain on 2016 in superb style.

Former Hoops frontman Kenny Miller struck in only 12 minutes to shock the visitors, but, as expected, Rodgers’ men weren’t slow to reply.

Just after the half-hour mark, Scott Sinclair arced over a left-wing corner-kick and Dembele outmuscled Danny Wilson to get a touch to the ball to bring it under control before lashing an unstoppable drive high past Wes Foderingam for the equaliser.

Sinclair stroked in the winner in the 70th minute after Patrick Roberts and Stuart Armstrong had combined on the right before the midfielder squared a pass across the face of the goal.

The £4.5million buy from Aston Villa in the summer raced in unguarded to knock in the points-clincher to make sure it was a Happy New Year for Celtic, their manager and the supporters.

TEAM: Gordon; Lustig, Simunovic, Sviatchenko, Izaguirre; Brown, Armstrong; Forrest (sub: Roberts), McGregor, Sinclair; Dembele.

* DON’T miss the second thrilling instalement of Rodgers v Rangers – only in your champion CQN.

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