Glasgow (AFP) – Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers insists the uncertainty at bitter rivals Rangers will not affect them in Sunday’s Old Firm derby at Parkhead.
Rangers have been in turmoil on and off the pitch in recent weeks since Mark Warburton and his backroom team departed Ibrox last month.
Graeme Murty was placed in interim charge and has recorded three wins and two defeats in his five games.
The Under-20s coach is likely to continue in the dugout for the fourth Old Firm derby of the season.
That is despite Portuguese coach Pedro Caixinha looking set to take the job permanently after being granted permission from Qatari club Al-Gharafa to join Rangers.
However, Rodgers believes the Rangers players will put the managerial situation to the back of their minds and will be concentrating on trying to inflict a first domestic defeat of the season on Celtic.
“The players are professional enough to get on with it,” Rodgers said.
“Graeme’s done an excellent job.”
“It’s not an easy situation when you’re working with the younger players and then you’ve got to step into the position when the manager goes.
“I’m sure whatever way it works out for him, he’ll have benefited from it.”
– ‘We have turned the corner’ –
Celtic are 33 points ahead of third-placed Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premiership and have won all three Old Firm encounters this term, including a 5-1 league victory at Celtic Park in their first meeting of the season.
Another win would put them on the verge of securing a sixth successive title win and hurt their rivals chances of catching Aberdeen in second spot.
Despite their incredible run, Rodgers is taking nothing for granted.
“Celtic v Rangers, the games I’ve been involved in so far, have been fantastic and of course we played well in the three games and got the result,” the former Liverpool manager said.
“We always anticipate a tough game and I’m sure this one will be no different.”
If beating their biggest rivals wasn’t incentive enough, Rangers could deny Celtic a host of European records by claiming victory.
The reigning champions have won their past 22 Premiership games as they chase their own record of 25 league wins in a row and Benfica’s European record of 29 successive victories set in 1971/72.
Rodgers’ side are also well on course to smash Europe’s largest ever title-winning margin of 31 points set by French giants Paris Saint-Germain in 2015/16 — they currently lead Aberdeen by 27 points.
Rangers will be weakened by the suspension of Joe Garner, who scored a hat-trick in last weekend’s 6-0 thrashing of Hamilton Academical in the Scottish Cup.
However, striker Martyn Waghorn believes Rangers can become the first Scottish side to defeat Celtic this season and make up for the disappointment they suffered on their last visit.
“Of course we can get a result at Celtic. We must believe in ourselves. We are playing some good stuff. We have turned the corner after a difficult few weeks,” the former Wigan Athletic forward said.
“We will go there with a lot of confidence. If anyone can beat them it’s going to be us. We need to be right on our game but it’s an Old Firm game and anything can happen.”
Saturday (1500 GMT)
Aberdeen v Motherwell, Hearts v Hamilton, Partick Thistle v Inverness, Ross County v Kilmarnock, St Johnstone v Dundee
Sunday (1200 GMT)
Celtic v Rangers