Ange Postecoglou challenges Celtic to keep improving ahead of Old Firm derby

·3-min read

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou is targeting an improved performance as the champions bid to back up their 9-0 win over Dundee United when they host Rangers.

Postecoglou claimed there would be “zero” significance in going five points clear at the top of the cinch Premiership six matches in, and highlighted the fact that he lost his first derby meeting before winning the league after being asked about the importance of winning the opening clash with their city rivals this season.

Instead of being caught up in the hype, the former Australia head coach is looking for a continuation of the progress he has seen in his team in the early part of the campaign.

Celtic have scored 25 goals in six matches and Postecoglou was able to make nine changes for Wednesday’s Premier Sports Cup tie against Ross County and still mastermind a 4-1 win.

“We have grown into the season and that’s what we are looking for – an improvement in our performance, an improvement in how we do things, and play our football, and overcome whatever challenge we have on Saturday,” said Postecoglou.

“That gets you three points and you move on to the next challenge.

“Our incentive is to keep performing to the levels we have and keep improving on them.”

After winning his first two battles with Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Postecoglou suffered defeat against the Dutchman’s side in the Scottish Cup semi-finals and the final meeting in the league last season ended in a Parkhead draw.

But the Celtic boss stressed that the players would define the outcome.

“I know it’s fascinating for other people but I have never really been into manager versus manager – we don’t play the games.

“You assess each team as a separate entity and what you find is they always evolve. They have brought in some new players and lost some players. Their basic structure is fairly similar but with new additions it changes slightly because of the qualities the players they have brought in have got.

“We treat every opponent in the same manner in that we analyse them and respect them but ultimately it’s about what we bring to the table and how we can play our football and assert our dominance.

“They are a good side, they were a good side last year and have started the season strongly. From our perspective it’s about performing at the levels we know we can and try and exceed them. When we have done that, irrespective of the opposition, we have been hard to stop, and that will be our challenge again.”

New signing Oliver Abildgaard will not feature after arriving on loan from Rubin Kazan on Thursday but Postecoglou is delighted to get the powerful midfielder on board.

“He’s a player who is a little bit different to what we have already got here in terms of his attributes,” the manager said.

“But everyone I have spoken to about him from a character perspective says he is an outstanding person as well as an experienced and good player. He will fit in well.

“It’s no secret he brings a bit of size to our team. Most of our team would struggle to get on any rides at Disneyland.

“Particularly Gavin Strachan is happy in terms of set-pieces but it wasn’t just about getting a big body in there.

“I like that he plays the pivot really well when he needs to but can play in a double pivot. He is effective going forward but can also provide a shield.

“We have a squad that is strong enough now to compete on all the fronts we need to. I’m really happy with the business we have done.”