Rodgers eases title pressure

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers has played down the effect of his side facing being under pressure in their bid to win an eight consecutive Scottish league title.

The Bhoys are six points clear at the top of the table, having maintained their advantage thanks to a 2-0 win at home to Hibernian on Wednesday evening, which was their fifth successive SPFL victory.

And Rodgers is calm about the prospects for the coming weeks, with Rangers still hoping to overhaul their rivals to be crowned Scottish champions for the first time since 2011.

He told reporters: "I have always tried to get my team to play without pressure and you can see that now because they are playing well.

"People talk about pressure, but we didn't concede a goal, we played very well and, while there are items we can look at, we are just enjoying our football.

"We can only focus on ourselves. There is a perception created around a challenge for the title that it's tight, but all you can do is focus on our own performance and play good football.

"If we do that, then we know there is a good chance we'll win."

Celtic are 1/7 to win the SPFL title, with Rangers priced at 5/1, while the Bhoys are 11/10 to win the Scottish Cup for a third season in a row.

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Rodgers counts cost of victory

Celtic moved six points clear of Rangers with a 2-0 win over St Johnstone in the Scottish Premiership, though it may be three points at a cost.

The home side were organised throughout the McDiarmid Park clash and largely kept the champions at bay.

Brendan Rodgers summoned first Odsonne Edouard and then Timothy Weah – after the Frenchman had to come back off injured – from his bench to bolster his attacking options and it was the on-loan Paris St-Germain forward Weah that inspired the Bhoys.

Weah's 78th minute cross was turned home from close range by James Forrest for the vital opening goal and the American teenager then led a sharp breakaway, exchanging passes with Callum McGregor for the easiest of finishes on 89 minutes, to seal the win.

But it was three points at a cost for Celtic.

Record signing Edouard was stretchered off after he kicked the studs of Saints defender Ryan Shaughnessy in a goalmouth scramble only eight minutes into his cameo.

Celtic also lost Mikael Lustig to injury at half-time while goalscorer Forrest limped off with a hamstring problem near the end – leaving Celtic down to ten men with all their subs on. And they finished with nine as Kristoffer Ajer carelessly got himself sent off in stoppage time for a professional foul.

Rodgers – already without Kieran Tierney, Dedryck Boyata, Leigh Griffiths, Tom Rogic, Olivier Ntcham, Tony Ralston and Filip Benkovic for various reasons will have to re-adjust his pack for Wednesday's visit of Hibernian, while Celtic also have a Europa League tie with Valencia looming amid eight games in February.

"If you watch the replay again, the boy Shaughnessy's stretching and his foot is accidental as Odsonne's gone to hit it," Rodgers said of Edouard's injury.

"These modern boots are not so tough. It's just caught him right on the front of his foot so he's in a wee bit of pain but hopefully he will be okay.

"James is more of a worry, he felt his hamstring a bit tight. We had to play the last 10 minutes or so with 10 men.

"We'll make do. We have some outstanding players who can play in those positions. We will assess it on Monday and see where we're at."

Celtic are 13/5 to beat Valencia in Glasgow on 14th February in their last-32 first leg. The La Liga side are 21/20 while the draw is 12/5.

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Rogic set for knee operation

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has confirmed that Australia international Tom Rogic needs knee surgery and will be sidelined until mid-March.

The 26-year-old former Central Coast Mariners midfielder will be out of action for up to six weeks.

Rogic has been representing the Socceroos at the Asian Cup, which was surprisingly won by Qatar, with Graham Arnold's side being knocked out in the quarter-finals by United Arab Emirates.

"Tom is actually going to be out for six weeks which is a real blow for us," Rodgers said ahead of Sunday's trip to St Johnstone.

"He came back from the Asian Cup and had an issue with his hand out there and injured his knee when he landed awkwardly.

"He went down to London with a member of our medical team to check that his hand didn't need an operation and, while he was there, we thought we would have his knee looked at and it showed up a lateral meniscus problem, which is going to put him out for up to six weeks.

"It is not what we expected but that's the way football works. It is unfortunate. He won't need the operation on his hand but needs it on his knee."

Celtic are 1/8 to win the Scottish Premiership again this season and 3/10 to beat St Johnstone in Perth on Sunday.

Gerrard rules out Morelos move

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard has insisted that striker Alfredo Morelos will not be leaving the club during this transfer window.

The Ibrox boss says 'every player' in his squad has a price, and while he's not ruling that Morelos could be sold in the summer, the club's leading scorer won't be moving on in the coming days.

Ligue 1 outfit Nice, currently managed by Patrick Vieira, are reportedly weighing up an £8m approach for the Colombian forward.

Morelos joined Rangers in the summer of 2017 from Finnish outfit HJK Helsinki for a fee in the region of £1m. He has notched a dozen goals in 19 Scottish Premiership appearances this season, propelling Gerrard's side into a closely-fought title race with Celtic in doing so.

Rangers drew level on points with the champions when they defeated Brendan Rodgers' men at Ibrox before New Year, though the Bhoys have played a game less.

Gerrard's team return to competitive action on Wednesday evening when they go to Rugby Park to take on third placed Kilmarnock and their manager says nobody will be leaving during this window.

"There's been nothing concrete [from Nice]," said Gerrard.

"At the moment in this window, Alfredo won't be going anywhere. But every one of our players has got a price, I'm not naive enough to sit here and say they haven't.

"But none of my players will be going out the door, certainly in this window, so anyone who is preparing a bid or thinking of a bid will be wasting their time."

Rangers are 8/13 to win at Kilmarnock on Wednesday. Steve Clarke's side, one point behind their visitors, are 17/4 while the draw is 3/1.

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Ibrox return for Davis

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard is thrilled to have been able to tempt Northern Ireland international Steven Davis back to Ibrox.

The influential midfielder moves to the Gers from Southampton on a six-month loan agreement, subject to international clearance.

Davis, who has made 226 appearances for Saints, has represented his country on 107 occasions and captained them at Euro 2016.

Gerrard said: "Steven is yet another fantastic addition to our squad and we are delighted to welcome him back to the club.

"He is vastly experienced at both club and international level and knows the club, the fans and the demands that come with wearing the Rangers jersey very well.

"He has previously captained the club and been captain for his country and Southampton, so we welcome yet another leader into our dressing room."

Davis moved to Ibrox, initially on a loan deal, in January 2008, and won a host of trophies with the club before moving to Southampton in the summer of 2012.

Meanwhile, former England international striker Jermain Defoe has joined Rangers on an 18-month loan from Bournemouth.

Defoe played for Charlton, West Ham, Tottenham, Portsmouth, Toronto FC and Sunderland before joining the Cherries 18 months ago.

Gerrard said of the veteran forward: "I'm delighted to be able to welcome Jermain to Rangers. He is an exceptionally talented striker and vastly experienced footballer who has scored goals at every club he has played for."

Rangers, 13/5 to win the Scotland Premiership this season, can be backed at 8/11 to beat Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on 23rd January.

Defoe nearing Ibrox switch

Jermain Defoe is closing on a move to Rangers, having agreed personal terms on an 18-month loan deal with the Glasgow outfit.

The 36-year-old striker is set to join up with former England teammate Steven Gerrard, now the manager at Ibrox.

The deal, reported to be agreed by various sources, is subject to Defoe passing a medical this weekend before he can join the Light Blues on their warm-weather training camp in Tenerife.

Defoe has yet to start a league game for Bournemouth this season and has recently voiced his desire to get first-team football elsewhere, with Eddie Howe seemingly content to allow him move on.

Under the terms of the deal Bournemouth are said to have two recall options – this summer and in January 2020 – on their player.

The former West Ham, Tottenham, Portsmouth and Sunderland striker is amongst the Premier League's all-time top ten leading goalscorers.

Gerrard has steered Rangers into a position to challenge city rivals Celtic for the Scottish Premiership title this season.

The Old Firm rivals are level on points going into the winter break, with Celtic top on goal difference and also having played one game less than Rangers.

On Saturday, Ryan Jack scored the only goal at Ibrox as Rangers ended a six-year wait for a league win over the Hoops, the first time Brendan Rodgers has lost a Glasgow derby fixture.

Rangers are now 7/2 to win the Scottish Premiership this season, with Celtic 1/5 to make it successive titles.

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McIntyre promises big changes

Dundee manager Jim McIntyre has admitted that he needs to bring in several new players in January if his side are to have any chance of avoiding relegation.

The Dark Blues slumped to a 5-1 defeat at Aberdeen on Tuesday and are at the foot of the table after losing 13 of their first 18 matches of the campaign.

They are only behind 11th-placed St Mirren on goal difference though while Hamilton are four points better off in 10th so former Ross County, Queen of the South and Dunfermline Athletic boss McIntrye has not given up hope of avoiding the drop.

"We know where we are. There clearly needs to be change," he said.

"It's a difficult window and St Mirren will be doing the same thing and possibly so will Hamilton. But the bottom line is we need a bit more. The players that have been playing regularly need a bit of help.

"Our fight will not be against Aberdeen. Our fight will be against St Mirren and Hamilton and trying to stay in touch with them and get above them.

"I'm not going to make excuses. It just wasn't good enough. I know exactly what needs to be done here."

Dundee are 7/1 to draw against Celtic on Saturday and 13/10 to finish at the bottom of the table this season.

Rodgers eagerly awaiting Christie return

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers says Ryan Christie is likely to return to the fold quicker than expected.

The midfielder was stretchered off during Thursday's Europa League defeat against Salzburg and it was initially feared he could face an extended spell on the sidelines.

However, Christie's issue is not as serious as first thought, so much so that he has been able to do some light running.

The 23-year-old excelled on loan last season at Aberdeen and has continued his form upon his return to Parkhead, establishing himself as a key part of Rodgers' midfield.

Next up for the Hoops is Wednesday's visit of Motherwell, a game they are 2/11 to win, with the draw 11/2 and the Steelmen 14/1.

Although he is pushing himself hard, the boss says the game is expected to come too early for the Scotland international, with Saturday's visit of Dundee more likely for a return.

"Ryan has been out running on the field running, so that's good news," Rodgers said. "He won't be available for tomorrow, but we'll see where he is towards the weekend. Against Salzburg, the medical team just wanted to stabilise the ankle because they were unsure how serious it was and he was in pain, with contact on the floor.

"We had the X-ray straight after the game that evening, had the scan and it showed that it wasn't quite as bad as first feared when he was taken off. And he's pushing himself to get back playing. We'll see where he's at over the course of the week."

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Gerrard calls for killer touch

Rangers boss Steve Gerrard has urged his side to be far more clinical in front of goal, despite having seen them move back to the top of the Scottish Premiership.

The Gers took top spot thanks to a 1-0 win over Hamilton Academical at Ibrox on Sunday, but Gerrard was concerned that his team were unable to add to the third-minute strike from Daniel Candeias which proved to be the matchwinner.

He told reporters: "I'm happy with the win and the clean sheet, but we've got a lot to learn in terms of the performance.

"We put 22 corners in and over 30 crosses. We created enough opportunities and got into some really exciting areas of the pitch, but we had zero killer instinct. That's a concern.

"I'm not really interested – with all due respect – in being top of the league right now. We were top before, then went and lost and drew our next two games.

"So what's more important to me now is what we can learn from the performance. It's blatantly obvious we have to learn to kill teams off in the final third."

The Gers are back in action on Wednesday evening when they head to Easter Road to take on Hibernian, who are unbeaten in the last six meetings of the two sides.

Rangers are 19/20 to win the game in Edinburgh, with the draw priced at 11/4, while James Tavernier can be backed at 11/4 to score at any time.

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Hibs win ‘annoys’ Lennon

Neil Lennon was both delighted and annoyed after his Hibernian team defeated Celtic 2-0 at Easter Road on Sunday.

The Edinburgh side have allowed a good start to the season slip way with a poor couple of months, seeing them drop to eighth in the Scottish Premiership table.

The home side made the perfect start when Vykintas Slivka struck after 46 seconds with a cool finish inside the box.

Celtic were poor in the opening half and Florian Kamberi finished a superb second-half counter attack with an emphatic finish to give Hibs the daylight they required, making it back-to-back home league wins over Brendan Rodgers' side.

Lennon was delighted to see off his old team, but also somewhat frustrated that his team haven't matched that level of performance recently.

"I'm delighted, considering the circumstances and the lack of depth we had in the squad, it's a remarkable performance really," the Hibs boss told Sky Sports.

"It annoy me, when I consider some of the games we have played in the last couple of months, and then we go and produce a performance like that. Two weeks ago against Kilmarnock we were pathetic and then today we beat the champions, and we deserved to beat them as well."

Hibs host Rangers in Leith in midweek and Lennon is challenging his players to show the same form against Steven Gerrard's outfit.

"We've got another big game now on Wednesday night, we're not jumping through hoops at the minute," he added.

"We're starting to look like the team we can be again. But you can't save your performances for the big games. You've got to do it week in, week out. It gets us back in the mix now for top-six, which pleases me going into the New Year.

"We've got to build on the last two performances, because they've been excellent."

Hibs are 5/2 to beat Rangers on Wednesday. The Light Blues are 1/1 with the draw priced at 13/5.

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