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Pressure all on Rangers in Old Firm, says Celtic’s Rodgers

Glasgow (AFP) – Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers says the pressure will be firmly on Rangers as the Glasgow rivals prepare to clash in Saturday’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox.

The Hoops head into the match on New Year’s Eve with a 16-point lead over Rangers and a game in hand following their comfortable 2-0 win over Ross County on Wednesday.

Rodgers’ side thrashed the Gers 5-1 on their visit to Celtic Park back in August and the former Liverpool boss expects a tougher test in the red-hot atmosphere of Ibrox.

But the Celtic manager says his side have the experience to cope under pressure and insists the Hoops will be aiming for their 15th straight victory in the league.

“It will be a battle; there’s no doubt about that,” Rodgers said.

“It will be a tough game and there’s a huge pressure obviously on them to get the result at home.

“For us, we’ve played in big games this season under pressure and dealt well with them and stayed very calm and got the results.

“We know it will be a tough game, but it’s a game we’ve been looking forward to. It finishes off a remarkable first half of the season for us and we aim to go there and win.”

Celtic have yet to taste defeat in 23 domestic games under Rodgers as the Scottish Premiership prepares for a three-week winter shut-down following the Old Firm clash.

With such a massive gap at the top of the table, the Hoops boss claims he is relaxed about the outcome on Saturday as they finish the first half of the season well on course for a sixth title in a row.

“I think for us it doesn’t matter what the result is on Saturday. We’ve had a fantastic start to the season in the opening half of the season so irrespective of the result we’ll finish the game and be happy with our work,” Rodgers said.

“That’s eight games this month and we’ve won seven and had a draw away to Man City in the Champions League. You cannot ask any more of the team.

“We’ll go away, we’ll rest and recover and then we’ll be back even better in the second half of the season. But we’re greedy and we want to win every game and that’s the attitude for the weekend.”

Celtic’s win over Ross County means the Hoops will end 2016 undefeated domestically at Celtic Park, where they have claimed 20 wins and two draws.

And Rodgers paid tribute to former Hoops boss Ronny Deila and his players for their part in the run.

“I think obviously it’s a great credit to Ronny and the team before. They were here for the first six months of the year and had that record so they can be proud of their work in that part of the season,” the Celtic manager said.

“And, of course, I’m delighted with the opportunities that the players have taken since I’ve come in here to be better and to improve.

“They just amaze me with their mentality and they are very much worthy of the credit that they’re getting because it’s a remarkable feat of concentration, of hard work, of focus and quality. “They’re demonstrating that in every game they play and every day they train.”

There was some bad news for Australian international Tom Rogic as Rodgers revealed the Socceroo star would miss the Old Firm clash through injury.

The midfielder suffered an ankle knock in the win over Dundee but is expected to return after the winter break.

“He won’t make it which is disappointing for him as he’s been outstanding all season but it’s about the collective for us and we’ll be ready,” Rodgers said of the Australian midfielder.

“I think probably once we get back after the midseason break he’ll be fine.”

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