Celtic fringe players give Brendan Rodgers 'food for thought'

Celtic's Ryan Christie receives a standing ovation
Celtic's Ryan Christie receives a standing ovation

Celtic's fringe players have given Brendan Rodgers options for Saturday's first-versus-second Glasgow derby away to Rangers.

The Northern Irishman has changed his starting line-up several times during a busy December.

And he did so again for the 2-0 win over Ross County.

"We go into the game on Saturday with a very strong mentality and everyone's fit and will have the ability to play in the game," Rodgers said.

First-half goals from Erik Sviatchenko and Stuart Armstrong secured a 14th straight Scottish Premiership win.

And, with Rangers drawing 1-1 away to St Johnstone, unbeaten Celtic extend their lead at the top of the table to 16 points with a game in hand.

"There is huge pressure on them to get the result at home," Rodgers said of Mark Warburton's side.

"For us, it doesn't matter what the result is on Saturday.

"We have had a fantastic start to the season and, irrespective of the result, we will be happy with our work.

"We aim to go there and play our game and be really aggressive and attack and we know, if we can do that, we've got an opportunity to win."

Ryan Christie was handed a rare start against County - the 21-year-old midfielder earning his seventh appearance of the season.

Celtic scorer Stuart Armstrong celebrates
Stuart Armstrong scored Celtic's second goal against Ross County

"Every player that's come in has done very well and contributed to the team performance and result and Ryan was no different," Rodgers told BBC Scotland.

"I thought he was excellent - his touch, his movement, he linked the game well for us, pressed the game well."

Rodgers is likely to return to a line-up against Rangers similar to those he used in the Champions League this season.

However, he suggested that others were putting pressure on his more established players.

"It's food for thought for all the players," he said. "We've played eight games this month - won seven and drew one in the Champions League - and every player has contributed."

Rodgers said his team had to be patient before Sviatchenko's long-range opener seven minutes before the break.

"I was wondering what he was doing shooting, but it's a clean strike and he faded it round the defender and it's nestled into the bottom corner," he said.

County manager Jim McIntyre thought goalkeeper Scott Fox was at fault for Sviatchenko's goal but was pleased with his side's performance while ruing missed chances.

Asked if anyone was capable of preventing Celtic extending their run of 23 domestic games unbeaten, he said: "They are certainly beatable.

"But they are doing fantastically well and the strength in depth that they have in their squad is where they are particularly impressive.

"When you look at the bench that they had tonight, and the options they've got to come on and influence the game, then it makes it tough for the opposition."

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