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Brendan Rodgers is eager to play down Old Firm battles

By Ronnie Esplin

Brendan Rodgers will not get too excited about facing Rangers as he looks to guide Celtic to their sixth successive Premiership title.

The Gers are back in the same league as their big rivals after a four-year absence, with many expecting the Glasgow giants to fight it out to be champions.

Aston Villa have confirmed Celtic have made a bid for Scott Sinclair, signalling their ambition. And Rodgers is also battling on the European front where he described the Champions League play-off draw against Hapoel Be'er Sheva of Israel as "tough, like the last two rounds".

Ahead of the league opener against Hearts at Tynecastle tomorrow, Ulsterman Rodgers, who took over from Ronny Deila, was asked if Rangers would make the league more attractive.

"I don't see it as that," he said. "My only attraction was Celtic, that's why I came here, one of the great clubs of the world.

"If you are talking about big clubs, history, fan base, one of the leading clubs in the world, then I came to one of them.

"Every team provides a different challenge. It will be tight, it will be the usual suspects up there. Aberdeen have done well, they are out of Europe now so that might give them more training time. Hearts have been about it and will have a strong squad.

"Rangers coming into the league will fancy doing well and there are other teams who can make it very difficult for you. So I am really looking forward to it."

Rodgers revealed Patrick Roberts is out with a hamstring injury which leaves him a doubt for the play-off games.

But the Celtic manager hopes to bring at least one new face into his squad this weekend and when the name of Sinclair was put to him, he said: "Scott is a player I know well, I had him in at Chelsea when he was 16, I know him probably as well as anyone and I know his qualities.

"But we are looking at a number of players and all of them we hope can improve the squad."

On the play-off draw against a side who knocked Olympiakos out in the third qualifier, the former Liverpool boss said: "It will be tough like the last two rounds but hopefully we can get through.

"I don't know much about them to be honest but my concentration is on Hearts. I don't think they are in season yet, Astana were 21/22 games into their season but it will be tough."

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