BRENDAN RODGERS is preparing for his players for the visit to Ibrox tomorrow, his third derby encounter since returning to Celtic in June last year.

The Irishman has already enjoyed a double triumph in the previous meetings – 1-0 at Ibrox on September 3 and 2-1 at Parkhead on December 30.

Now Rodgers is gearing up to go again in the High Noon showdown.

In his first stint, the Hoops gaffer enjoyed phenomenal success between May 2016 and February 2019 when he faced Celtic’s city foes on 13 occasions and triumphed 10 times while drawing two and losing only one.

In another CQN EXCLUSIVE series, we look at the fifteenth clash before the turn of the year – and another celebration.

JOY RODGERS…the Celtic boss acknowledges the celebrating fans after the 2-1 derby success at Parkhead in December.

December 30, 2023: Premiership:

CELTIC 2 (Bernardo, Kyogo), Rangers 1 (Tavernier)

A SPECTACULAR double strike from Paulo Bernardo and Kyogo Furuhashi fired Celtic to a crucial triumph at Parkhead.

It was a rollicking, rocking encounter as the champions eased eight points ahead at the Premiership pinnacle in their quest for their twelfth title in 13 years.

The visitors were reduced to 10 men in the 71st minute when Leon Balogun floored Daizen Maeda as the Japanese speedster raced through on goal.

Referee Nick Walsh had no option but to banish the Ibrox defender and there could be no argument as the player headed for the tunnel.

STRIKE ONE…Paulo Bernardo thunders an unstoppable right-foot drive towards the Ibrox net for the opening goal.

The hosts were two goals ahead at the time and were in total control, but, inexplicably, allowed the visitors back into the contest when James Tavernier sent a 20-yard free-kick high past Joe Hart in the 88th minute.

The deadlock was broken with a wonder strike from Bernardo in the 25th minute that almost ripped the net from the stanchion behind Jack Butland.

Luis Palma whipped in a right-wing corner-kick to the near post where Abdallah Sima rose to head away. However, his clearance fell only as far as the lurking on-loan Benfica midfielder.

Bernardo hit the ball first-time with ferocious timing from 16 yards and his effort simply bulleted past the Ibrox keeper at his left to thump against the net.

Parkhead rocked to its foundations as 60,000 joyous fans rose in unison to greet the brilliant effort  from the new Bhoy who only scored his first goal for the Hoops in the Boxing Day win at Dundee.

STRIKE TWO…Kyogo Furuhashi fires a breathtaking shot high past jack Butland.

Bernardo picked up a booking from over-fussy match offical Walsh for celebrating with the supporters.

In the 35th minute, Rodgers was forced to make a change after Stephen Welsh, in for the injured Cameron Carter-Vickers, hurt his left shoulder in an awkward fall.

Maik Nawrocki, who hadn’t figured since the League Cup loss against Kilmarnock in the third game of the season, came on in his place.

The Polish centre-back slid into the back-four as though he had been there throughout the campaign. It was a highly impressive return for the summer recruit.

PARADISE…Kyogo Furuhashi is congratulated by ecstatic Celtic team-mates Daizen Maeda, Paulo Bernardo, Alistair Johnston, Luis Palma, Liam Scales and Callum McGregor after his wonder second goal. 

The second-half had an explosive start when Kyogo claimed a breathtaking goal for Scotland’s title kings as he notched his seventh strike this year against the Govan club.

Maeda and Nawrocki were involved in the build-up on the right with the defender picking out Matt O’Riley with an astute forward pass.

The stylish Danish international playmaker moved the ball onto the Japanese hitman lurking 25 yards outside the box.

The danger signals immediately flared as Kyogo jinked inside and then dragged the ball to his left before sending a truly stupendous 47th-minute strike high past Butland into his top left-hand corner.

JOLLY RODGERS…the Celtic boss acclaims Kyogo Furuhashi’s superb goal to make it 2-0.

Rodgers made a second change in in the 71st minute when he replaced Bernardo with David Turnbull and only moments later Balogun saw red when he hauled down Maeda.

In the 83rd minute, the Hoops gaffer made three changes as he took off marksman Kyogo, Maeda and Palma and sent on Oh Hyeon-gyu, Liel Abada and Mikey Johnston.

Some slack play allowed the 10-man opposition back into the match and Tavernier had the nerve ends jangling with a free-kick that swirled high past Hart.

The final whistle was greeted with almighty cheers amid huge relief as Rodgers smiled at a job well done.

TEAM: Hart; A Johnston, Welsh (sub: Nawrocki 35), Scales, Taylor; Bernardo (sub: Turnbull 71), McGregor, O’Riley; Maeda (sub: Abada 83), Kyogo (sub: Oh 83), Palma (sub: M Johnston 83).

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