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Rodgers' resolution is an even bigger lead at the top for Celts

 

By Ronnie Esplin

Boss Brendan Rodgers has targeted a double-figures points lead for Celtic at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership by the end of the year.

The Hoops have achieved their manager's first two aims by retaining the Betfred League Cup with a final win over Motherwell last month and qualifying for the Europa League with a tie against Russian side Zenit St Petersburg to come in February.

The champions went five points clear of second-placed Aberdeen with a 2-0 win over bottom side Partick Thistle at Celtic Park on Wednesday night and, ahead of the visit of the Dons tomorrow, with Dundee away and Rangers at home to come before the end of 2017, Rodgers said: "I said to the players a number of weeks ago about the three targets by the 30th of December.

"If we can win the League Cup, qualify for the Europa League and have a double-figure advantage by the time we arrive into the winter break then we will have a brilliant season.

"Okay, if we don't have the double figures, as long as we have that gap then that will represent an outstanding start for the players through qualification for the Europa League and winning the League Cup.

"That would be a great, great end to the year for us."

The Dons have stuttered with two recent defeats to Rangers while boss Derek McInnes was linked with the vacant managerial post at Ibrox.

However, since the former Gers midfielder rejected the call of his boyhood heroes, Aberdeen have won three in a row - against Dundee, St Johnstone and Hibernian - to leapfrog the Govan club into second spot.

Asked if he was surprised that McInnes had turned down the chance to go to Rangers, Rodgers said: "I suppose everyone was expecting him to go because of his allegiances there, having been a player and a club he supported.

"But as a manager you also have to have a strategy, it can't be always with the heart.

"You have to think things through and have to speak to people and find out what the strategy is and if everything is aligned within that before you make a decision.

"Football management is a precarious business and what is important is that you go into a club that has stability.

"I was very, very fortunate to come to Celtic. I have an incredible board here, a real high level of intellect within Celtic and everything is aligned."

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