GLASGOW: Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers oversaw the twilight of Steven Gerrard’s legendary career as Liverpool captain, and expects Gerrard to set the same standards in his new role as Rangers boss.
Rodgers and Gerrard go head-to-head for the first time on Sunday when Rangers travel to Celtic Park looking to make an early-season statement against the side that have dominated Scottish football for the past seven years.
Gerrard’s decision to take his first senior managerial steps in the Glasgow goldfish bowl of Old Firm rivalry was questioned when the former England captain penned a four-year deal in May.
But 12 games into his tenure, Gerrard is still to taste defeat and has guided Rangers to the group stages of European competition for the first time in eight years, in the Europa League.
“As a player, his standards were always very high and he’ll look to take that into his managerial career,” said Rodgers on Friday.
“They’ve brought in some good players, upped the level of their team and had some good results. It will be an interesting game and one to look forward to.”
Rodgers has enjoyed unparallelled levels of success in two seasons at Celtic, winning back-to-back domestic trebles and going unbeaten in Scottish football during his first season.
The Northern Irishman is yet to taste defeat in an Old Firm derby, winning nine and drawing two of his previous 11 encounters.
But just three months on from being thrashed 5-0 in their last visit to Celtic Park, there is far more encouragement for Rangers this time round due to contrasting fortunes on and off the field for both sides early in the campaign.
“For us it’s just about staying calm and focused,” added Rodgers.
“The last couple of years we’ve dominated the fixture. We aim to continue to, but it doesn’t come to you. You have to work hard, show your qualities and these are amazing games to be involved in.”
– Dembele dismissed –
One of Rodgers’s key men looks like he won’t be involved as French striker Moussa Dembele is at loggerheads with the club for rejecting a bid from Lyon on Thursday.
Dembele was dismissed from the training field by Rodgers on Friday for a half-hearted effort and could yet leave before the transfer window closes later Friday with Rodgers wary of creating a toxic environment.
“What’s very important here is our own culture and environment,” added Rodgers, who said it was “highly unlikely” Dembele will be involved on Sunday.
Rodgers has recalled Belgian international Dedryck Boyata for victories over Hamilton and Suduva after the centre-back refused to play as Celtic were eliminated from the Champions League qualifiers by AEK Athens earlier this month.
And he insisted the same route back is open to Dembele if his attitude improves.
“My job is always to protect the best interests of the club and the players that are here. I know how hard they work and the money is in their bank at the end of the month, so you have to work.” —AFP