Celtic vs Rangers: Philippe Clement ready for ‘gladiator’ battle as Brendan Rodgers denies disrespect

Celtic host Rangers in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday; Brendan Rodgers’ side lead by three points with three games to go; Celtic won the first two meetings before a 3-3 draw at Ibrox last month; watch the Old Firm live on Sky Sports from 11.30am, kick-off 12.30pm

Philippe Clement insisted Rangers do not have to win at Celtic Park as he likened the Old Firm clash to “gladiators of the modern age”.

They are three points behind their rivals going into Saturday’s match, live on Sky Sports, and the Hoops have a superior goal difference.

Celtic won the first two meetings for the season, and the teams played a pulsating six-goal thriller at Ibrox last month.

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Asked if he thought Rangers had to beat Celtic to remain in the title race, Clement said: “I don’t totally agree with that.

“If you have a draw you can still become champions. Even if you lose but that’s a really, really long shot and too long a shot for me.

“We go full for the three points, that’s clear and doing that you can make an incredible comeback and you can make a really big statement also.”

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Rangers boss Philippe Clement looks ahead to Saturday’s Old Firm clash at Celtic Park

It will be home fans only again for the final league meeting of the season and Clement believes that could inspire his team to their first win at Parkhead since October 2020.

“I know many love to play here [Celtic Park] and the more people boo at you, the more people shout at you, the more people are negative towards you, the more they are afraid that their team don’t get a result,” he said as he revealed striker Leon Balogun is a doubt for Saturday’s match.

“I think, in a way, the more they’re going to boo tomorrow, the stronger my team is going to get.

Image: Leon Balogun is a doubt for Rangers' trip to Celtic

“Football is a little bit like the gladiators of the modern age.

“In the old times, you have the gladiators there and you had the stadiums full of people shouting and booing with their thumb up or thumb down.

“We are now in that situation, the good thing is people don’t kill us. We’re not dead after, maybe verbally yes but not in real life, so that’s a positive that we always have another go in the stadium again.

“That’s how society works now and players need to be ready for that.”

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Rodgers denies ‘have fun’ comments were disrespectful

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Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers looks ahead to Saturday’s Old Firm clash against Rangers

Brendan Rodgers admitted to being surprised at the reaction to him saying Celtic would “have fun” against Rangers.

Following victory over Hearts last week, the Hoops boss said his team would go on to work hard in training through the week and then look to enjoy Saturday’s clash.

“I would never refer to these games other than being intense, being competitive. So we never talk about the game as that, but we talk about the occasion. It’s one of the most iconic games in world football and I love it,” he said.

“It’s one of the reasons I’m here and the great pride and privilege I have of managing Celtic in a Rangers game.

“I’ve seen some of the headlines around the disrespect and whatever. Totally without merit, it was never in that context being said. And I never would be that person to disrespect another manager, another team.”

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Relive all the goals from this season’s Old Firm matches as Celtic and Rangers prepare to go head to head on Saturday

Rodgers, who won two Scottish Premiership titles during his first spell as Celtic manager, is urging his players to take the incentive to move to the brink of retaining the trophy again.

“It’s a great opportunity and that’s what stands in front of us,” added the former Leicester boss.

“Nothing will be won, we have to go and perform well. We need to work hard and we need to be intense and we need to ensure our game is at a good level.

“We’ll have an amazing support that will just take us through the game and hopefully we can entertain the supporters as well.

“Primarily the job is to get the three points and, if we can do that, it puts us in a brilliant position with two games to go.”

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