Rodgers says 'no merit' in Clement's 'disrespect' accusations

The Celtic manager said his side will 'have a bit of fun' in this weekend's crunch derby.

Brendan Rodgers has dismissed claims from Rangers manager Philippe Clement that he showed disrespect to the Ibrox club ahead of this weekend’s Old Firm derby.

After last week’s win over Hearts the Celtic manager declared his side would “have a bit of fun” in this Saturday’s game that will play a huge part in where this season’s title ends up.

If the Hoops can get a victory in front of 60,000 of their supporters they will move six points clear with only two games remaining with a healthy goal-different advantage.

But if the visitors get a win then it will go down to goal-difference ahead of the final games with Celtic playing Kilmarnock and St Mirren and Rangers taking on Dundee and Hearts.

Clement took offence from the Celtic manager’s comments and after his side beat Kilmarnock at Ibrox last Sunday he responded by saying: “That it is something that I would never say about an opponent. It’s not really respectful towards my team.”

Those comments surprised Rodgers, who said at his pre-match media conference: “I think anyone who was at my press conference would have sensed the way in which it was said. The reaction to that is totally without merit. It has no context whatsoever.

“You mention my past record in these games, I have never referred to these other than being intense, being competitive. We never talk about the game as that but we talk about the whole occasion.

“The occasion is one of the most iconic games in world football. And I love it. It’s one of the reasons I am here, the great pride and privilege I have in managing Celtic in a Rangers game. So the whole emotion, the whole feeling around this game is absolutely amazing.

“I have seen some of the headlines around the ‘disrespect’ and whatever else but it is totally without merit.

“It was never in that context being said, and I never would be that person to disrespect another manager or another team. But I suppose it’s part of the build-up for you guys.”

Rodgers’ record in the fixture is impressive with 12 wins and only one defeat in 16 derbies.

Clement has experienced one defeat and a 3-3 draw at Ibrox last month and Rodgers was asked whether the reaction to his comments showed what the pressure of the contest can do.

“I don’t know, I can only talk for myself,” the 51-year-old said. “I have loved these fixtures, it was the ones I was really looking forward to since being up here the first time.

“The record is great but it’s always about building – building more memories and great occasions in this game.

“But everyone responds and reacts in different ways. I understand the feeling and tension that can be around this game but that’s not me.

“My job is to find the calmness for the team and the players have been very, very relaxed but focused this week. The preparation has been first class, and that allows us to go into the game ready.

“For us, our intention is to win the game, so we don’t prepare for anything else,” he said. “We look to attack the game, and that’s our only focus and we’ll see where that brings us.”

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