BRENDAN RODGERS is well aware of the threat posed by tonight’s opponents St Mirren.

The champions have one hurdle to clear before their well-earned break with their next encounter due on Sunday January 21 in the intriguing Scottish Cup meeting with Highland outfit Buckie Thistle at Parkhead.

Stephen Robinson’s side lie in wait in Paisley this evening and Rodgers well remembers the first Premiership meeting against the Saints in the east end of Glasgow at the start of November when the hosts had to come back from a goal down to triumph 2-1 with Oh Hyeon-gyu claiming the winner in the 83rd minute.

Rodgers will also know that the Hoops stumbled on the same ground last season when they folded to an alarming 2-0 defeat and they also shed two points in a 2-2 home draw on May 20 – admittedly a fortnight after the eleventh title in 12 years had been secured.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS…Brendan Rodgers has plenty to mull over during the derby triumph.

The curtain came down on 2023 with a 2-1 home triumph over Ibrox opposition and the players are geared to go again with the first revolution of the ball in 2024 against fifth-placed Saints.

The Celtic boss said: “We played them earlier on in the season and we had a tough game against them – Stephen always sets up his teams really well.

“It’s probably be going back to playing against a 5-4-1 or a 5-3-2, so we have to do what we did against Livingston and Dundee and probe and play at speed. But we’re very hungry to finish off this period in a really good way.

“We had a midweek game while Rangers had the clear week to prepare and plan, but we still go out and perform. It will be no different on this occasion.

“We were back in on Sunday recovering, training, working, getting our plan ready and then you have to then back it up. That’s what is important.”

WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK…Brendan Rodgers attempts to catch the attention of one of his players.

Long-time crocks Liel Abada and Reo Hatate were included in Rodgers’ matchday squad for the derby with the Israeli winger making an appearance in the 83rd minute.

The influential Japanese international playmaker, who will be heading for the Asian Games along with Daizen Maeda in the middle of the month, remained among the stand-by squad.

The Hoops gaffer insisted he will not put pressure on either player and, speaking to the club website, continued: “At this stage of the season, you’re looking at physical condition and what the players can bring.

“I’m not in any rush with those two. It was nice for them to be involved – Liel is slightly ahead of Reo, so that’s why he got his minutes on Saturday.

“We’ve got one more game and then we’ve got a period of time to get them up to speed, but I don’t need to rush them.”

THAT’S MY BHOY…Brendan Rodgers has a special hug for Liel Abada at full-time.

Looking to maximise the next three weeks, Rodgers added: “The players will get a little bit of time – they need that. They’ll have a break to maybe spend a wee bit of time with their families.

“They’ll have some work they need to do while they’re away, but it’s a good chance to reset before going again. We have a spell without any games before we play in the Scottish Cup. So we can do a lot of work in that period.

“We’ll hopefully have some of the injured players back and maybe one or two in the door. Then we push on for the second half of the season.”

* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report and the best action images from St Mirren v Celtic this evening – only in your champion CQN.

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