GLASGOW: Revenge is on the mind of Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers as the Scottish champions prepare to welcome Hearts to Parkhead on Tuesday.
The former Liverpool boss has had things mostly his own way in the Scottish domestic scene since he took charge of the Glasgow giants in May 2016.
Under his guidance the Hoops have claimed all four trophies on offer and currently have an 11-point lead over Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premiership.
However, it is Hearts who remain the only blot on Rodgers’ otherwise flawless record after their 4-0 hammering of the Hoops in December brought Celtic’s record-breaking 69-match unbeaten domestic run to a halt.
Celtic are unbeaten in seven matches after normal service resumed following that shock defeat.
And Northern Irishman Rodgers wants his players to use the pain of their Tynecastle thrashing to motivate them when they face Edinburgh club Hearts.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using revenge as a motivation,” the Celtic manager said.
“You always want to win and I am sure Hearts’ celebrations afterwards gave my players a good message.
“It is the only game we’ve lost over the course of 77 domestic games — so yeah, there’s something to prove.
“We weren’t good though, and their pitch was awful.”
Rodgers added: “Everything that could have gone wrong for us did. But credit to Hearts — they exploited that and won. We have no excuse.
“You can go one of two ways when that happens. Last season I said I thought we’d suffer a defeat at some point but the players, remarkably, kept it going.
“What they achieved before that game and since then epitomises who they are as a group.”
Despite their domestic dominance and a two-year unbeaten record at Celtic Park, Celtic will face a tough task against a Hearts who look revitalised under Craig Levein.Their record-breaking run of eight consecutive clean sheets may have come to an end in the 1-1 draw with Motherwell on Saturday but the Jambos are unbeaten in 12 matches stretching back to the beginning of November.
However, Levein was loathe to discuss his side’s role in bringing Celtic’s record run to an end in fear of motivating the Hoops even more as they look for retribution.
“I think it’s better if we don’t talk about that as it will probably just rile them up even more,” the Hearts boss said.
“What I will say is that on the day everything went great for us. We got some breaks, they missed some chances and we got goals at critical moments and it was a great day for us.”
Levein added: “Celtic do have personal pride and they don’t put together a run like they did without having determination and pride in what you are doing. I expect a more determined Celtic than might have been the case last time and I expect them to be even more up for it.”
Elsewhere, Aberdeen could leapfrog Rangers — who take on Fraserburgh in their rearranged Scottish Cup tie — into second if they avoid defeat away to bottom club Ross County on Wednesday. –AFP