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THE CASE FOR THE DEFENCE

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BRENDAN RODGERS believes hard work and dedication have pushed Erik Sviatchenko to the top of the class.

Celtic’s Danish international is forming an excellent partnership with Croatian Jozo Simunovic in the heart of the Hoops rearguard this season with the team going eight domestic games without conceding a goal as they prepare for this afternoon’s trip to Motherwell.

Rodgers revealed Sviatchenko is a student of the game – and he even makes his own home videos in a bid to get better.

The Parkhead boss revealed: “I think Erik’s been brilliant as the season’s gone on – how he’s improving as a player and how he’s developing.

“He’s a boy I’ve got huge admiration for.

“After every game he studies his own game and cuts his own parts – edits his own individual clips – and then comes to us. We then sit and look together. That’s learning.

“We sit and talk through his game – what he’s done well and what he can improve on so he can take it into the next game.

“So, the improvement he’s making is because of him. It’s brilliant. He’s done that since he was in Denmark.

“It was part of what they did there, he’s felt the benefits of it, and he’s continued with it. Self-analysis is very important.

“Others will do it, look at things with the coaching staff.

“But Erik does his own and that’s what you want as a coach. You want players who think about the game.

“I’m lucky, I have a group here who are really thirsty to learn.

“They want to be better and there is a lot of self-improvement and reflection within them. And they’re doing well.

“But there is still a long way for us to go.”

Rodgers is delighted with the Sviatchenko – Simunovic partnership in front of Craig Gordon.

He added: “Jozo was one I hadn’t seen play, but I could just tell in training that he was a player.

‘“He’s 6ft 3in, fast, composed, aggressive. He’s still young. He’ll do something rash every now and then. He looks scary and he is.

“And we’ve got a great guy in Kolo Toure there in behind them who can shepherd them and talk to them. He uses all his experience.

“But those two are really strong. If they get the chance to play together consistently they give the team – along with the goalkeeper – a great backbone.”
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