BRENDAN RODGERS is looking forward to proving Celtic are smiles better as the pressure builds in the bid for a league and Cup double.

The Irishman has been over the course before in his first stint at Parkhead with seven successive honours – two titles, two Scottish Cups and three League Cups – to emphasise his ability to hold his nerve when it matters most.

The champions, two points adrift with 10 games to play in the quest for a twelfth crown in 13 years, are preparing for a crucial clash with Hearts at Tynecastle in tomorrow’s midday kick-off while Philippe Clement’s side take on Motherwell at Ibrox this afternoon.

The trophy holders also face Livingston in the Scottish Cup quarter-final in the east end of Glasgow a week tomorrow as they aim to bring down the curtain on Rodgers’ second coming in the silverware showpiece at Hampden on the iconic date of May 25.

JOY RODGERS…the Celtic boss reacts to Daniel Kelly’s goal for the Hoops’ seventh in the rout of Dundee.

The 51-year-old gaffer welcomes the upcoming campaign crescendo and insists: “When you arrive at 10 games to go, that is when the fun begins.

“That is when you are into the business side and that is what I am really looking forward to.

“People will always try to dramatise it from a long way out, and the finish line is still quite a way away, but this is the real exciting bit where every single point matters. It’s such a brilliant challenge and I’m looking forward to it.

“Totally. It feels different. You know it’s game on and you need to bring it on now. This is the serious part of the season. I think it’s one where, especially with experience, you know that is what it brings.”

Warning of the perils of taking their foot off the gas, Rodgers, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “That is what the message was before the game the other night, ‘you are now in a period where you just cannot be in your comfort zone’.

“Naturally, you can be as a player, for whatever reason, but from now on in you should never be.

“I say comfort zone because you have to have physicality. If you are in your comfort zone in life, then you’re normally not being physical, not doing the work. We’ve had inconsistencies up until this point, but we are still very much there and it is still very much in our hands, what we want to do.

NO SLACKING…Brendan Rodgers displays the determination he demands from his Celtic players.

“You are in a period now where you have to be on it, you have to be there, and I think we saw the example of that the other night. From the off, the aggression, the speed, the touch, everything.

“When our game is like that then our football smiles and that is what we want to see now for the rest of the season.”

A determined and focused Rodgers stressed his players must respond to the forthcoming challenges and added: “Aye, and they will do. If you don’t relish pressure then you can never be in this position as a manager or a player at a club like this.

“If you want a holiday, then go to a club where you can win once or twice in a month and maybe draw or lose two. This isn’t the club to be at.

“What this club is about, is about pressure, it is about dealing with pressure, and responding to it. It’s been a challenging season up to now for so many reasons, but we are there.

“We’re still there and we’ve got two big targets to play for, and it is still all within our grasp. So, we’ll be ready.”

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