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 in November 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 on Saturday, with Dundee away and Rangers at home to come before the end of 2017, Rodgers said: “I said to the players a numbers 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 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 Europa League and winning the League Cup. That would be a great, great end to the year for us.”
The Dons stuttered with two 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 obviously 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 obviously 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, as you can see now, 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, from strategy to interest.
“Obviously you need to find it out if it is aligned or not and if it is, then of course it gives you a great base to build from.
“I don’t know what Derek’s situation was, without speaking to him.
“But he obviously felt at this point in his career that the best chance for him, for that stability and with everything aligned, was to stay at Aberdeen.
“He is a good guy, he clearly wants the team to be better and wants to improve the club.
“I think the job he has done in the four and a bit years he has been there has proven that. I have a big admiration for him.”
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