While Celtic prepare for what could be a title celebration this weekend, their management team posted a warning for Pedro Caixinha as the new Rangers manager takes charge for the first time at home to Hamilton Academical. Celtic will be confirmed as champions if they beat Dundee at Dens Park on Sunday, providing Aberdeen lose to Hearts in the Saturday lunchtime kick-off at Pittodrie.
If Aberdeen draw or win, Celtic’s title party is not likely to be postponed beyond their next fixture, away to Hearts on April 2. In the meantime, Brendan Rodgers is already identifying scope for improvement and, according to his assistant, Chris Davies, nobody should be surprised if Celtic charge to another early championship next season.
“I don’t see any reason why not,” he said. “That will be our ambition, our aim, our objective but, at the same time, I think it’s important that there is a sensible outlook on it as well and an acknowledgement that the unbeaten run and the winning run and breaking records that have stood for a long time, is something special.
“It is a daily conversation, really. What areas do we feel could improve, what players do we feel could develop more, what things could we add? Brendan often talks about it and I talk with him about it. You have to make the right decisions in terms of how you go about that and that’s the process we will be going through in the next few months."
When Caixinha was paraded at Ibrox on Monday he claimed that Rangers had the best squad in Scotland, although he subsequently acknowledged that the 33-point gap between the Old Firm clubs indicated otherwise. Davies was not minded to accommodate Caixinha’s assertion.
“I was told about that but I didn’t actually see it myself,” he said. “Everyone can have their own opinion on what they think. I think it’s pretty clear for anybody looking at the league, where it’s at.
“We have certainly had an incredible season judging by that comment, but we do our talking on the pitch and we’ll always be that way.”
In that respect, Celtic have effectively been delivering a monologue, although Rangers managed to get a word in by emerging from last Sunday’s derby with a 1-1 draw to prevent the Hoops equalling or surpassing the record of 25 consecutive league victories achieved under Martin O’Neill in 2004. “Obviously, there was a frustration that we conceded the goal and drew the game but having analysed it in detail I personally still think we should have won it in terms of getting into good positions,” Davies said.
“Maybe that final pass wasn’t there but I didn’t feel at any point in the game that the opponent had any control of it and it was a more a case of us in those crucial moments not quite being at our normal level.”
When Caixinha arrived, the Rangers managing director, Stewart Robertson, said that money would be available for the Portuguese coach to strengthen during the summer, another statement that Davies declared would have no impact on operations on the other side of Glasgow.
“Again, personally we have no interest in what they are doing,” he said. “It’s just ‘how can we get better, can we be the best we can be, can we improve our squad, can we improve our play, can we be even better next year?’ and other teams can do what they want.
“No interest. It’s just about us being the best we can be. The big picture is that we are 35 games unbeaten, which should not be underestimated by anybody in terms of what an achievement that is - 33 wins and two draws. In any league in the world that is a phenomenal season so far.
“We’ll have played 65 odd games by the time this season is finished. Not just physically but mentally, it’s a lot to keep up a winning record.
“I think we’ve really inspired some of the other teams as well and they enjoy the challenge of facing us and trying to upset our run.”
If Celtic do secure the title with nine games to spare at Dens they will beat the previous record of a championship win with seven games remaining, established by Rangers in 1929 and equalled by Neil Lennon’s Hoops side in 2014. Dundee, though, have their own target of a top six finish and have reserved their best performances for meetings with the four highest-placed clubs, evoking mixed feelings in their manager, Paul Hartley.
“We beat Hearts, we beat Rangers and we’ve had close games against Celtic.
Aberdeen have probably been most impressive against us. It’s games against sides lower in the division that we’ve found difficult at times.”