MIKEY JOHNSTON will figure in Brendan Rodgers’ matchday squad for the crucial clash with Phillipe Clement’s Ibrox side at Parkhead on Saturday.

However, Celtic’s two-goal star in the 3-0 win over Dundee at Dens Park is being given no guarantees by his manager as he prepares for the second derby of the campaign following the 1-0 success in Govan in September.

Johnston could see himself cast once again as a bit-part player, but Rodgers, who is likely to give the nod to Luis Palma to start, could still view the 24-year-old Republic of Ireland international winger as an important cog in his plans.

JOB DONE…Brendan Rodgers gives the thumb’s up to the Celtic fans after the 3-0 win in Dundee.

The Hoops gaffer said: “The challenge for Mikey was when he was playing consistently, he has very rarely had maybe three, four or five games on the spin and especially on the back of Kilmarnock, Feyenoord and Hearts, that sort of level and intensity.

“I certainly know he is a player who can come off the bench and make an impact. And, on this occasion, he did that very well.

“It can give him confidence. The beauty with Mikey is that he’s stayed fit. It’s up to him whether he’s going to be a Celtic player, but we keep working with him and we feel he can come into the game and make an impact. We were pleased for him to get the two goals.”

Reflecting on the Tayside triumph in which on-loan Benfica midfielder Paulo Bernardo claimed his first goal for the champions, Rodgers, speaking to Celtic TV, observed: “It’s a Boxing Day game.

“You travel away and you stay away on Christmas night and you’re only hoping that the attitude and energy of the team going into the game is good – and I thought it was outstanding.

“From the first whistle we looked to impose our style in the game. We maybe rushed it a bit in the first-half. We got into good positions, but maybe just tried to play the last pass a little bit too early, so we mentioned that at half-time.

“In the second-half, we stepped it up again. We had great backing from the supporters who kept pulling the team towards the ball and eventually we made the breakthrough.”

GLEE IN DUNDEE…Mikey Johnston celebrates the first of his two long-overdue strikes.

Looking at Bernardo’s all-round contribution, the Hoops gaffer continued: “Paulo’s actually played a lot for us in the bigger games, which is obviously difficult at Champions League level, and maybe not started as much domestically.

“But for him to get his goal, that’ll do a lot for his confidence. I’m really pleased for him and it was a really good performance.

“The impact of the substitutes is important and especially in this period when there are so many games. I said it before and for the guys to make sure they’re ready, and I think all the guys who came in made a contribution and kept the energy and intensity in the game.

“That’s what pleased me the most. We have to go and impose our style and be really proactive. When we do that, we can be a good team.”

Following consecutive wins over Livingston and the Tayside outfit, Rodgers added: “I thought we were really creative. It was all based around the tempo and speed of the game and that’s what allowed us to make the breakthrough.

“It has been two good performances – and a better performance against Dundee than at the weekend. There was real good attitude and energy in the game.

“Now we can recover and obviously Celtic-Rangers games are huge games, but exciting games.”


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