BRENDAN RODGERS moved to defuse a potential powderkeg situation in tomorrow’s derby after being surprised at the reaction to last weekend’s “have fun” quote.

The Celtic boss, preparing for the visit of Philippe Clement’s side for the 12.30pm kick-off, delivered the thowaway line following the 3-0 win over Hearts at Parkhead.

However, the seemingly innocent comment sparked a spikey response from the Belgian who branded the comment “disrespectful” and insisted his team “would have fun, also” in the fourth all-Glasgow encounter of the campaign.

The champions go into the meeting with a three-point advantage with the same amount of games to play and a victory will edge them towards the brink of their twelfth crown in 13 years.

HANDS UP IF YOU’RE HAPPY…Brendan Rodgers celebrates Kyogo Furuhashi’s eye-catching winner at Ibrox in September.

Rodgers, who won two flags in his first stint at the Hoops, said: “I would never refer to these games other than being intense, being competitive.

“So, we never talk about the game as that, but we talk about the occasion. It’s one of the most iconic games in world football and I love it.

“It’s one of the reasons I’m here and the great pride and privilege I have of managing Celtic in a Rangers game.

“I’ve seen some of the headlines around the disrespect and whatever.

“Totally without merit, it was never in that context being said. And I never would be that person to disrespect another manager, another team.”

Rodgers urged his players to start on the front foot and, speaking to Sky Sports, added: “It’s a great opportunity and that’s what stands in front of us.

HOME, SWEET HOME…Celtic are aiming to be in Paradise after tomorow’s derby.

“Nothing will be won, we have to go and perform well. We need to work hard and we need to be intense and we need to ensure our game is at a good level.

“We’ll have an amazing support that will just take us through the game and hopefully we can entertain the supporters, as well.

“Primarily, the job is to get the three points and, if we can do that, it puts us in a brilliant position with two games to go.”

After an absence of more than four and a half years, Rodgers returned to the fixture on September 3 and guided the visitors to a 1-0 victory at Ibrox courtesy of a breathtaking strike from Kyogo Furuhashi.

The Japanese frontman also flashed in the points-clincher at Parkhead on December 30 when he added to Paulo Bernardo’s stunning volley in the 2-1 success.

Honours were even at Ibrox last month when a stoppage-time goal strike from Rabbi Motondo prevented a Celtic 3-2 win with the title kings leading after goals from Daizen Maeda, Matt O’Riley (pen) and Adam Idah.

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