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Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers to use break to freshen up his squad

Celtic 2 Dundee 1

By Ronnie Esplin

Boss Brendan Rodgers stressed the importance of the January break for Celtic after their 2-1 win over Dundee on Saturday re-established their 11-point lead at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership table.

In the midst of a trying nine-game December, the Hoops boss made five changes to his side - one enforced due to the suspension of skipper Scott Brown.

Goals from striker Leigh Griffiths and midfielder Nir Bitton were enough to fend off Marcus Haber's counter for the visitors who might have nicked a point at the end if substitute Faissal El -Bakhataoui had not blasted over the bar when through on goal.

The champions, unbeaten in 20 domestic games, prepare for the visit of Partick Thistle tomorrow where more changes are promised by Rodgers and they will finish the year with a game against second-placed Rangers at Ibrox on Hogmanay before a three-week break.

Rodgers is looking forward to taking and replenishing stock during that period.

"I know every club is different but for us it is absolutely massive. It will be a welcome break for us," he said.

"One, to recover the body and the mind and to prepare for second part of the season and in that period reflect on how the first part of the season has gone to look at the areas where we can do better.

"And then obviously maybe add one or two signings to come in and then really kick on in the second part of the season.

"The players have been phenomenal in their work, they are performing really well."

Griffiths, who has played second-fiddle to Moussa Dembele for large parts of the season, started and scored in his third consecutive game to take his tally for the season to 12.

The Scotland striker said: "I am in the team to score goals and help the team get three points and if I continue to do that I will be happy to stay in the team.

"But the decision rests with the gaffer in who decides to play, regardless of whether it is me or Moussa, we are always guaranteed to score goals.

"It is just about me keeping that jersey off him or if the gaffer can get us both in the team so be it."

Dembele's form has shaded in recent weeks but he thanked his team-mates and the Celtic fans after winning the prestigious Trophee de l'Espoir Francais, run by French TV show Telefoot.

He said: "It's great. The supporters have always been behind not only me but every Celtic player, and it's great for me and them to have these fans backing us.

"We have won this all together. I am on the pitch scoring goals but behind me there are 10 players and then there are those on the bench and those in the rest of the squad."

• Racing legend Tony McCoy has heaped praise on Brendan Rodgers for the job his fellow Ulsterman is doing at Celtic.

"I've met Brendan plenty of times," said McCoy who won a remarkable 4,358 races and was crowned champion jump jockey for 20 successive seasons.

"We actually got an honorary doctorate degree on the same day in Coleraine two years ago.

"He's doing a great job and in some ways Celtic were lucky to get him as I felt his Liverpool time was cut short after nearly winning the league.

"You get quickly pushed to the side in football and I thought it was quite harsh the way his Liverpool reign ended.

"He's very personable and a very nice man.

"He's very approachable and he's easy to talk to and I think he appreciates his position in life, a bit like myself and other sports people - you realise how lucky you are to live your life through your sport."

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