SPL

Brendan Rodgers warns Celtic not to ‘soften up’ during title run-in

By Sports Desk April 19, 2024

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has warned his players they cannot afford to “soften up” because of results elsewhere.

The cinch Premiership champions have seen their title hopes receive a major boost since beating St Mirren 3-0 on Saturday, after which Rangers dropped five points in games against Ross County and Dundee.

Celtic remain top by three points – and have a five-goal advantage – with five matches remaining in the league.

The championship race takes a back seat this weekend when Celtic take on Aberdeen in the Scottish Gas Scottish Cup semi-finals, before Rangers face Hearts at Hampden on Sunday.

Rodgers wants his side to remain focused on the task in hand and not slip into a comfort zone as a result of their rivals’ slip-ups.

“Our focus has always been on ourselves,” Rodgers said. “I made that point to the players.

“Irrespective of what happens or what other results (are) or the way it goes for other teams, we can only do our work.

“Because you can’t soften up – especially at this time just because another team might have drawn or lost. That’s irrelevant.

“You have to perform and get the result. If you come off it against teams who are motivated and organised, then they can give you a problem.

“So for us, we have to continually focus on our own performance – irrespective of what happens elsewhere because we have to create our story.  And for that we have to work at it. Hopefully that will be the storyline come the end of the season.”

Rodgers, who has Liam Scales back fit for the Hampden clash on Saturday, added: “We don’t play in the league for a week or so, so it’s not my focus

“My message has always been the same, it’s not how you start the marathon, it’s how you finish it. For us, we are improving day by day, looking good on the field, still with lots of improvement to make.

“Performances in the main have been good. But still a long, long way to go in terms of the league. Fifteen points is a lot of points to play for. But our focus now is just on getting to the final.”

When asked if he ever had any doubt that Celtic would come good during tough moments such as losing back-to-back league games in December, Rodgers said: “Listen, we haven’t won anything yet.

“We are in a semi-final, which is great, we are improving and the performance level is showing that. I demand more from the team and I will push right until that last whistle of the season.

“But for me it’s part of a league campaign – you will not play 38 games at the very highest level. You are going to have dips and waves, but your strength is how you shift that.

“That’s the real strength in those moments, whenever it isn’t going quite well, can you shift it and get the team back on track?

“And the players have been absolutely brilliant. They have had to dig in at lots of moments this season and get results.

“But we just chipped away and stayed focused on our game model and how we play, and whenever influential players come back in, then all the pieces come together again and the fluidity of the team is much better.

“You can never have doubt, and the more we work together, on and off the pitch, it all feels that everyone is on the same page.”

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