Celtic's Rodgers dismisses Rangers talk of 'disrespect' ahead of Old Firm derby

football10 May 2024 15:33| © AFP
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Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has brushed off suggestions that he showed disrespect towards Rangers as the fierce Glasgow rivals prepare for a potentially pivotal derby on Saturday.

Rodgers said after last week's 3-0 win against Hearts that his team could "have a bit of fun" against Rangers but stressed they would take nothing for granted in the title race.

Rangers, playing 24 hours later than Celtic, cut the gap to three points with a 4-1 win over Kilmarnock.

Rangers boss Philippe Clement, speaking after his team's victory, said: "That it is something that I would never say about an opponent. It's not really respectful towards my team."

Northern Irishman Rodgers was surprised by the Belgian's response, telling reporters on Friday: "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 (Rodgers has an impressive winning record), 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."

Victory for Celtic at home would leave them on the verge of a third consecutive title, with games to come against Kilmarnock and St Mirren while a draw would also leave them well placed.

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

Clement, at his own press conference on Friday, urged Rangers to "grab the moment", comparing his side to the gladiators of the Roman Empire.

"I think football is maybe a little bit like the gladiators of the modern age," he said. "In the old times you had the gladiators there in a stadium full of people shouting and booing and putting their thumb up or thumb down. I think we are now in that situation.

"The good thing is people don't kill us, we are not dead afterwards. Maybe verbally, yes, but not in real life and that is a positive that we always have another go in the stadium again."