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I'll always put needs of Celtic first, says Brendan Rodgers

By Gavin McCafferty

Published 26/10/2016

Strong link: Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths combined for the winner against Rangers
Strong link: Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths combined for the winner against Rangers

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers will continue to prioritise the bigger picture rather than worry about shoe-horning individuals into his team.

Rodgers was speaking in relation to the prospect of pairing Leigh Griffiths with Moussa Dembele more often after the pair combined for the winning goal against Rangers in the Betfred Cup semi-final on Sunday.

Griffiths has not started a game for club or country since aggravating a hamstring injury against Aberdeen on August 27 with Dembele taking on the mantle of Celtic's main goalscorer.

But the Scotland international has joined Dembele for the latter stages of the last five matches, including Sunday's Hampden clash.

"It's something that worked well for us in the game," said Ulsterman Rodgers ahead of tonight's Scottish Premiership clash at Ross County. "It just depends on the game.

"I'm not worried by the individuals. I've got great individual players, the job of myself and the coaching staff is to pick the best team, and the best team is going to get us the results.

"Up until now, it's gone okay. Whoever plays, they are asked to do the job and thus far they have been doing it very well."

Rodgers has been fairly consistent with his team selection in recent weeks, but he has been impressed with the way his fringe players have stepped in when required.

"I have said all along that it really will be about the squad this season," Rodgers said. "And Sunday was a great example.

"Leigh hasn't played so much recently, Stuart Armstrong hasn't played so much, but they came straight into the game and picked up the tempo and the speed of the game straight away.

"And that's because they are working tirelessly in training, there is a real intensity into how they have been working. That gives them every chance to come in and perform really well.

"If we didn't have that and we didn't have the collective spirit here for the team to do well, then it would probably make it harder for us.

"But the players who haven't been playing have been a great credit to the image we are trying to create here collectively. They will get the benefits of that over the course of the season."

The Celtic manager might be tempted to make some changes for tonight's encounter in Dingwall, given Celtic also face away games at Aberdeen and Borussia Monchengladbach in the subsequent six days.

"You always have to think about it, you are periodising your games and looking at the rest in between," the former Liverpool boss said.

"The players have been first class in their recovery strategies in order to be ready for the next game. But you have to be mindful of it, it's a long season, we have played a lot of games with many more in front of us.

"But when you're at a big club like Celtic and are competing for honours, then that's what you expect, you expect to be involved in a lot of games.

"But where we can minimise the loading for certain players, that's what we will do."

  • Ross County v Celtic, Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership: Dingwall, Tonight, 7.45pm

Belfast Telegraph

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