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'Teams should play with freedom in Celtic cup quarter-final'

The Hoops are three points clear of Old Firm rivals Rangers at the top of the table with eight fixtures remaining.

Ange Postecoglou expects teams to play with freedom in Celtic cup quarter-final SNS Group

Ange Postecoglou believes the break from fighting for precious cinch Premiership points could boost the entertainment value in Celtic’s Scottish Cup encounter with Dundee United on Monday night.

The Hoops are three points clear of Old Firm rivals Rangers at the top of the table with eight fixtures remaining as the week-to-week pressure of the league gives way to cup action.

Celtic, who are record cup holders with 40 trophy wins, travel to Tayside in the quarter-finals and Parkhead boss Postecoglou said: “When you get to this time of the year you see how much a point means to teams and that can be fairly constricting, whereas in cup competitions you kind of say ‘well let’s just go for it’ and there is an opportunity there for teams to advance.

“It doesn’t mean that teams are all of a sudden just going to open up, but I just think that whenever the game is 0-0, teams will have a little bit more of a go.

“I think back to the semi-final of the League Cup and the way Hibs tackled Rangers in the first half and they probably hadn’t played with that freedom all year.

“Being so close to a cup final you can see that teams like that can do it, so we have to be ready for that and make sure we match whatever tempo and intensity there is in the game.”

Postecoglou stated earlier in the season that he was looking to have his players at peak fitness for the business end of the campaign and the former Australia boss is happy with what he is seeing.

He said: “That’s the theory and you never know until you get to the end of the season if that’s worked out well.

“We are in a good place in terms of the health of the squad and training is really competitive.

“It’s the most competitive it’s been all season. From the physical perspective and the numbers we are getting back, the players are in a really good space in the way we are working through games.

“Our performances have been fairly stable. They haven’t all been exhilarating, but we haven’t had too much fluctuation.

“All those kind of indicators show me that we are in a good space to finish the season strong. That’s just me sitting here right now and the evidence we will see as we go along.

“Anecdotally and observationally from me without looking at the data, which I do every day anyway, my sense is that our training is at the best level it has been all year, so that is the kind of stuff I look at and you hope that transfers into the game.”