Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers believes the key to title success is for everyone at the club to “stay calm” and concentrate on performances.
Rangers are currently three points behind the league leaders, holding a game in hand and able to move to the top of the table on Tuesday night if they defeat Aberdeen.
Rodgers, who is preparing his side for a trip to face Hibernian 24 hours after the match at Ibrox, acknowledged that it was tight at the top of the Premiership table but said he always expected competition. His Celtic side drew against Aberdeen on Saturday and he hopes to see a response from a team that has shown inconsistency in the season so far.
“I never set out this season thinking you are going to win a league by 10 or 20 points,” he said.
“You set out to be the very best you can be and meet the challenge that is in and around you.
“Clearly, the competition is there and it will be tight, I’m pretty sure, through to the end of the season.
“For us, it’s just about really focusing on our own game and making sure we can have that consistency.
“We have the capacity to play well and win these big games but I think it demonstrates a wee bit about where the team is at and how young some of the team is because we haven’t been able to string it together for longer periods.”
“We have gone four or five games, six games, whatever, and then that killer instinct just goes a little bit.
“But, listen, we have won six of our last seven, we have drawn one. I know the rules up here in Glasgow, how it works.
“But the key is you just stay calm. I see the players train every day and I know we will have one or two players coming back and we will just continue to focus on that performance level.”
While he hopes to get maximum points from the visit to the capital and ensure his side lead the table before Preimership football pauses for the Scottish Cup this weekend, Rodgers preferred to take the long view, with 14 league games still to play.
“There’s still such a long way to go,” he said. “The finish line is not even in sight, you have just got to go game by game, keep working well, keep your focus, and then pressure really comes later, a lot later down the line.
“But at this point you focus on your performance and what you can control.
“We have dropped points this year and it’s something that we need to be better at in this next part, but I don’t worry about where we finish now, it’s about going into the next game.”
Celtic will be boosted by the return of Daizen Maeda in midweek after the forward returned to Glasgow following Japan’s Asian Cup exit.
“Daizen Maeda is back, which is great news, and fit and healthy,” Rodgers said.
“He is actually in a better place now than he was when he left because he was still trying to get up to speed.
“He has gone away, trained, played some games. I spoke to him when he did come back and he feels ready to start if we need him.”
The manager also gave an update on Greg Taylor, who has been sidelined in recent weeks. The left-back could make his return from a calf injury against St Mirren on Saturday but if he isn’t ready for the cup clash in Paisley he will be part of the squad for the league game against Kilmarnock.
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