6 Brendan Rodgers Rangers putdowns as Celtic boss riles Philippe Clement with a bit of 'fun'

He has their number on the park but Brendan Rodgers isn't adverse to putting Rangers in their place off it as well.

The Celtic boss is preparing for perhaps his most significant derby clash in charge of the Hopos. Philippe Clement takes his team across Glasgow next Saturday for the final Premiership meeting between the pair this season and the stakes couldn't be higher. A win for Celtic will virtually ensure they'll be crowned champions, giving them a six-point cushion and superior goal difference with just two matches still to play.

Rangers simply need to win to keep their hopes alive. Rodgers insists his team will "have some fun" against their rivals, which seems to have got Clement all riled up. Record Sport columnist Chris Sutton reckons Rodgers has got under his rival’s skin and while we'll find out at the weekend if that is actually the case, it won't be the first time he's rubbed the blue half of the city up the wrong way. Record Sport takes a look at the best of Rodgers' Rangers baiting over the years.

Who is Pedro Caixinha?

With Rodgers on his way to completing an invincible first season in charge of Celtic, Rangers were putting a plan in place to try to end their rivals' dominance. Graeme Murty's caretaker stint was to end in the summer and the Ibrox club identified Portuguese boss Pedro Caixinha as the man to bring silverware back to Govan.

Brendan Rodgers and Pedro Caixinha will lock horns once more
Brendan Rodgers and Pedro Caixinha will lock horns once more -Credit:SNS Group

It wasn’t an appointment that was expected north of the border, with Caixinha little known outside of Portugal and managing in Qatar before taking the Rangers reins. And he wasn't someone Rodgers was familiar with, the Hoops boss initial response to being asked about Caixinha's arrival a blunt: “I have never heard of him.”

55 propaganda

Almost in the same breath, Rodgers accused Rangers of pumping out "propaganda" over winning a 55th league title. The phrase "going for 55" was adopted by the club in their marketing literature ahead of the 2016/17 campaign, while a huge tifo display was unveiled ahead of the opening match by fans, reading: "Going for 55."

And Rodgers praised his players for taking no heed and doing their talking on the pitch. He said: “So they obviously had the genuine feeling that they could win the league. But we’ve just done our work, quietly prepared the team, worked on the players’ development and improvement and it’s taken us to this point. This game is one that could put us clear of them and we move on.

“I just think that was the message that was out there from them. It’s pretty clear that was the message, but all you can do as a team is your own work and our players have been brilliant at that. I wasn’t surprised that message was out there because I was new into it and I had no thought for it either way.”

Mentally scarred

Rodgers faced Rangers six times in 2016/17, winning five of them and drawing one, scoring 14 goals in the process. Ahead of his first encounter with Caixinha's Gers, Rodgers couldn't resists bringing up their miserable derby record and was sure it was bound to leave some cars on those who had endured a torrid time of it in light blue.

“There will still be scars there. There’s no question about that," he said. "If you’ve played six games and beaten an opponent five times and drawn one and been really convincing in a number of those games then it’s hard not to feel something.

“Players are only human. In that type of scenario after the third or fourth game there’s a feeling of ‘What’s going to happen here?' But we prepare for it as a new game and a fresh challenge for us."

See you in May

A indirect barb upon Rodgers' return to Parkhead for his second stint last summer. Of more importance to the Irishman was soothing tensions that still lingered from his abrupt departure in February 2019 to Leicester City. He was self aware enough to realise that his comeback wasn't going to be universally accepted.

The only way to make fans forget is by winning trophies. Rodgers gets that more than anyone, and predicted in his start of season address that he'd be back to talk to his doubters this month - presumably with at least one trophy in the cabinet. The League Cup was wrested away from them by Rangers, but there's still a league crown and Scottish Cup to win, so Rodgers way well back up his pre-season words after all.

"When I left here four years ago it was probably one of the saddest days of my life. I went on to a different challenge so I regret if anyone stood here or at home were hurt, as I know I hurt many people.

"When I left here four years ago it was probably one of the saddest days of my life. I went on to a different challenge so I regret if anyone stood here or at home were hurt, as I know I hurt many people. For those who I need to convince, I will see you here in May. Thank you very much for coming, Hail Hail."

Rangers are coming

It's long been parroted back at Gers fans in a mocking tone after derby defeats or yet another Celtic title win. And it didn't escape Rodgers’ attention as he looked ahead to the final clash of the year back in December.

He'd heard it all before during his first spell in the Parkhead hotseat. Clement is the firth Gers boss he's faced off against and whilst he insisted the focus on what his side were up to, the reference was certainly deliberate and a subtle nod to Rangers always coming but rarely actually arriving.

"Over my two spells here I have worked against five Rangers managers and every time Rangers were coming, every time, at some point," he said. "So for me, it is normal.

"Like I said the other day if I listened to media and press then we would be in constant crisis mode or constant fear of Rangers. But it is the fifth manager now so for me my focus is only on Celtic and concentrating very much on here.

Welcome to the house of fun

After beating Hearts at the weekend, attention naturally turned to next weekend's showdown. It will be the final derby clash without away fans, with each club set to the let the other’s supporters in next season, albeit in reduced numbers. Rodgers is expecting the atmosphere to be on another level given the consequences, and reckons his team can "have a bit of fun" against their rivals.

That hasn't gone down well across town, with Clement branding the comments "disrespectful" before insisting his men can have fun as well, although somewhat less light heartedly.

Rodgers said: “I will tell you we are champions if and when it happens. In the meantime, we won’t get too carried away. We will stay calm recover, get our team ready and then next week will be incredible. The atmosphere here, and a big chance to add more pressure. Eighty per cent of it now is mental. Physically they are in a really good place. This stage it’s all about mentality. You can see mentally we are in a really good place.

“Take nothing for granted, keep our composure, we have a lot of work to do in the week, get our plan ready and then next Saturday we can have a bit of fun!”