London (AFP) – Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has hit back at claims from Hearts boss Craig Levein that players need more protection from Hoops captain Scott Brown. 

Levein expressed his annoyance about a collarbone injury suffered by 16-year-old midfielder Harry Cochrane following an aerial challenge with Brown during Hearts’ 3-1 defeat by Celtic on Tuesday.

“I think everybody should get a bit more protection from Scott Brown really,” Levein, Brown’s former national team manager, said when asked if young players should get more protection from referees.

“I’ve known Scott for a long time and he is aggressive in the way he plays,” Rodgers responded.

And the former Liverpool boss backed claims it was Levein’s side who were the real aggressors.

“Scott Brown goes into every single game to dominate the game; that’s what I ask him to do and what’s I ask the team to do.

“He’s a top-class international player – Scott is a great example of a top-class player, who plays on the limit every single game.

“It’s why our supporters love him and why other players will respect him because he shows his fight in every single game.

“If you go back to the game itself, there were more fouls made by Hearts players than Celtic players. Like we always do, we always look to play and win games in the most sporting way that we possibly can, whilst winning on the scoreboard.”

Next up for Rodgers’s Celtic is a trip to Rugby Park on Saturday to face a Kilmarnock side reinvigorated by manager Steve Clarke.

Clarke came to Kilmarnock with his reputation dented following an unsuccessful spell as assistant manager at Aston Villa.

However, like Rodgers, the former West Bromwich Albion and Reading manager has seen his stock rise since arriving in Scotland leading Killie away from the relegation zone to within two points of a top-six spot.

Clarke has recorded some impressive results in his 14 matches at charge, including a win over Rangers and a draw on their visit to Celtic Park back in October.

“Obviously I’ve enjoyed it more because the players here at Kilmarnock have responded well to the methods that I’ve brought in, they’ve responded well to the little challenges we’ve set them,” said Clarke.

“There are plenty of good managers up here and plenty of good players.

“There is a decent standard, good level, very competitive matches and I’ve enjoyed it since I’ve been here.”

Elsewhere, third-placed Rangers will look to make it four wins out of four in 2018 when another former Celtic captain Neil Lennon takes his Hibernian side to Ibrox.

The Gers trail Celtic by 14 points at the top of the table but have a game in hand over the league leaders and Aberdeen in second.

Fixtures (1500 unless otherwise stated)


Kilmarnock v Celtic (1230)

Aberdeen v Hamilton

Dundee v Ross County

Hearts v St Johnstone

Motherwell v Partick Thistle

Rangers v Hibernian