Rodgers cranks up pressure on Caixinha for Ibrox showdown
The prospect of a collision with Rangers brings out Brendan Rodgers' taste for the stiletto remark, the barb thrust into the weak spot of Celtic's arch-foes.
On the verge of his first title success as Hoops manager, he made a point of reminding his rivals that Rangers had marked their return to the top flight of Scottish football in 2016 by declaring that they intended to bring a 55th Scottish title to Ibrox. "Let's be clear that when I came up here … all the propaganda before a ball was kicked was that before the end of the season they'd be going for 55," he said in March.
On the eve of the first chapter of Glasgow's tribal schism in the current campaign, he returned to the theme, this time twisting the dagger by referring to Rangers' reticence about repeating any such ambition. "I don't hear so much," he said. "That was something that was apparent when I came in. For everyone, it was. I certainly think the noise is different. I am not very keen to overly talk about another club. I don't want to spend a whole press conference talking about another team."
Rodgers' next thrust was to suggest that Celtic's Old Firm derby record last season, of five wins - two of them by 5-1 margins - plus one draw, must weigh upon Pedro Caixinha and his side ahead of today's resumption of hostilities.
"It's a new team. In fairness to Pedro, for whatever reason he's not liked what he's seen in the group," Rodgers said. "He's gone out and been backed really well by the board to bring in players of substance and quality, so it's a lot of change there, but there will obviously still be scars."
When Rodgers turned his attention to his own players, he directed particular praise at his captain, Scott Brown. "For years he's talked about as a player who growls and snaps but there's his level of possession, how he takes the ball and makes passes - he's tactically very good," said the manager.
Like his manager, Brown displays a relish for these occasions, an appetite which inevitably attracts the ire of the Rangers support but which also adds fuel to the turbo-charged atmosphere. Brown has taken to Rodgers's high-intensity training and playing regime and has been a key figure in the unbeaten run of 56 successive domestic fixtures.
Nothing in either side's form suggests that there is likely to be a reversal of the trend which saw Celtic prevail in five of last season's six meetings. They are capable of overwhelming Rangers in crucial areas of the field and in their two visits to Ibrox under Rodgers they showed no signs of crumpling under the waves of animosity from the stands. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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