Rangers v Celtic: Brendan Rodgers says champions will be better in new year
Runaway Scottish Premiership leaders Celtic will be even better in the second half of the season, manager Brendan Rodgers says.
The champions, homing in on a sixth successive league title, lead city rivals Rangers by 16 points before Saturday's Ibrox meeting at 12:15 GMT.
"We want to win, but whatever the result, we've had a brilliant opening period to the season," Rodgers said.
"We'll go away, re-focus and be better in the second part of the season."
The Premiership teams head into a three-week winter break to start the new year before resuming in the Scottish Cup fourth round on the weekend of 21-22 January.
Celtic are unbeaten in 23 domestic matches this season - 19 in the Premiership, plus four in the Scottish League Cup.
They are within three matches of equalling the club's 'Lisbon Lions' class of 1966-67 that went 26 domestic matches unbeaten at the start of the season - before losing 3-2 at Dundee United on 31 December.
|Celtic's unbeaten start to Premiership|
|Aberdeen W 4-1||Hearts W 2-1|
|Rangers W 5-1||St Johnstone W 4-2|
|Kilmarnock W 6-1||Inverness CT D 2-2|
|Motherwell W 2-0||Dundee W 1-0|
|Inverness CT W 3-0||Ross County W 4-0|
|Hamilton W 1-0||Aberdeen W 1-0|
|Dundee W 2-1||Kilmarnock W 1-0|
|Partick Thistle W 1-0||Motherwell W 4-3|
|Ross County W 2-0||Partick Thistle W 4-1|
|Hamilton W 3-0|
|P9 W9 D0 L0 Goals F26 A4||P10 W9 D1 L0 Goals F26 A9|
Rodgers has enjoyed victories over Rangers at Celtic Park (5-1 in the league) and Hampden Park (1-0 in the Scottish League Cup semi-final) since taking over in the summer.
Acknowledging his side will head to Ibrox "full of confidence and looking to impose our style on the game" after 14 straight league victories, he believes the pressure to win falls on Rangers, who are unbeaten in 14 home matches this season, including 10 in the league.
"In terms of where we're at, and where they are, a number of points behind, with Aberdeen and Hearts closing in behind them, then of course they will want to win the game as much as we will," Rodgers said.
"They're protecting an unbeaten run at home and their supporters will expect them to win. That all points to pressure.
"I expect a very tough game. It'll be a really intense game and a great battle, I'm sure."
The Northern Irishman takes heart from the way his side have coped with pressurised situations this season.
He pointed to their 4-3 Premiership win at Motherwell from 2-0 down and their Champions League qualifier against Hapoel Be'er Sheva, where they lost 2-0 but hung on for a 5-4 aggregate victory, among others.
"We have stayed calm and come through the pressure," he added. "So we know it will be a great atmosphere at the game, but in terms of our game plan, there is no change.
"We know we average three goals (2.6) away from home in the league so far, so it points to us going into the game with a big confidence, but we understand and respect it is a difficult game."