ANGE POSTECOGLOU has a special reason for aiming to retain the League Cup this season.

The Celtic boss picked up his first piece of silverware as Neil Lennon’s successor when two goals from Koyogo Furuhashi overcame Hibs in a dramatic Cup Final comeback at the national stadium in December 2021.

The trophy was branded as the Premier Sports League cup last term and is now the Viaplay Cup, but under any guise it was a crucial breakthrough honour for the Greek-Australian to lift only six months after agreeing to become the new Hoops chief and quit J-League outfit Yokohoma F Marinos.

SILVER SMILE…Ange Postecoglou celebrates his debut trophy triumph as Celtic manager at Hampden last season. 

Now Postecoglou is planning to overcome the semi-final challenge of Kilmarnock on Saturday evening as he looks to book a place in the competition’s showpiece match on February 26.

He watched his players warm up for the upcoming confrontation on the south side of Glasgow with their well-merited 2-0 victory over the Ayrshire club on Saturday, a result that meant the champions maintained their nine-point advantage after the weekend results.

Postecoglou said: “When you play at Hampden, there’s always something on the line. Playing there isn’t just another game, it’s always a semi-final or a Final.

“I just think it makes for a great occasion and certainly for us we look forward to it and to make it memorable we have to perform and win.

“We’re still evolving and getting stronger and post the break we’ve had some of our strongest performances, so that’s the pleasing aspect and we need to keep doing that.”

Reflecting on last season’s trophy success, Postecoglou, speaking to Celtic TV, continued: “In the context of where we were on our journey, to win a trophy early certainly helped fast-track a lot of the things that I wanted to implement.

“When you win a major trophy in the first three months of your tenure it just garners belief in everything you’re doing and accelerates everyone’s learnings and they all want more of it.

“We’re talking about having success, it’s not something abstract, and you felt it as part of a group so certainly in the context of where we are now it was a very important part of our season.”

DOUBLE TAKE…Kyogo Furuhashi (above) celebrates onr of his double on Celtic’s way to winning the League Cup against Hibs in December 2021 and (below) the Japanese striker is in the net after claiming the opener in Celtic’s 5-0 Premiership win over Kilmarnock in August.

There will be no chance of complacency being allowed to creep into Celtic’s players before they take on the Rugby Park side and the manager added: “You just have to look at what happened down south in the FA Cup over the weekend and Cup football, in general.

“I’ve been around long enough to know that there’s always a different element to it.

“I think it allows players to play with less fear even though there’s so much on edge because when you aren’t expected to win you have nothing to lose.

“It’s not like you’re losing three points and falling behind in the table, you give it all out there and see what comes of it and we need to be ready to deal with that and have the same sort of mentality.

“It’s a unique situation where you’re playing the same team, I’ve no doubt Derek McInnes will have his team up for it and we have to be ready and we’ll be up for it, as well.”

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