Thomas Rogne plays down Nikica Jelavic factor in title race

Jelavic is Rangers top scorer this season
Jelavic is Rangers' top scorer this season

Celtic defender Thomas Rogne has played down the potential impact of Nikica Jelavic's Rangers exit on the Scottish Premier League title race.

The Croatia striker, top scorer at Ibrox this season, signed for Everton on deadline day, with Rangers manager Ally McCoist unable to replace him.

"At the weekend they didn't have Jelavic and they still won 4-0," Rogne said about the game against Hibernian.

"So Rangers is always going to be a good team and so are the other teams."

When Rogne was asked if he was glad Jelavic was gone, he replied: "I have no comment on that. He has never been a Celtic player so I don't care.

"He is a good player who is not in the SPL any more. I won't say I am mad about it."

Celtic lead the reigning champions by one point and have a game in hand and have made three times as many January signings as their Glasgow neighbours.

Rangers have signed Sweden Under-21 winger Mervan Celik, who was a free agent after leaving GAIS.

Celtic have brought in right-back Mikael Lustig, a senior Swedish international from Rosenborg; former PSV Eindhoven midfielder Rabui Ibrahim, a Nigerian Under-23 cap; and Poland striker Pawel Brozek on loan from Trabzonspor.

However, Rogne is adamant that the January movements and, in particular, the loss of Jelavic will not change the mindset about their city rivals.

"We don't focus on other teams too much," said the Norway Under-21 international.

"We know Rangers is a good team no matter what."

With Celtic's squad strengthening and having overtaken Rangers in the title race, most observers would tip them to win the SPL for the first time in four years.

Norwegian Under-21 cap Rogne denies the pressure is now on Neil Lennon's men to clinch the title.

"The only pressure we are under is the pressure we put on ourselves," he said.

"Of course we want to win the title, we can't say otherwise.

"But it is only February and there is a long way to go so we don't think about that now, we just think that we have to play well and win the games.

"We have a small lead but we know that we need to stay focused every game, just a small slip-up and the other teams are right behind us.

"So it is going to be difficult."

Celtic Park is well stocked with centre-backs and Rogne acknowledges that he must be playing well to secure a starting place, with Daniel Majstorovic, Glenn Loovens, Charlie Mulgrew and Kelvin Wilson offering competition and Jaroslaw Fojut due to arrive in the summer.

"Everyone is playing for their future," added Rogne.

"When you get the chance to play you want to prove to everyone that you are a good player and deserve a spot."

Top Stories