Brendan Rodgers says Celtic may be down on points this season but they are better than they were last term.
The Parkhead boss last month saw his side’s long domestic unbeaten run finally come to an end while they have shipped more points already this campaign than they managed in the whole of last season.
Yet Rodgers reckons the champions are a slicker outfit than they were 12 months ago.
“We’re improving,” he said in the build-up to Saturday’s William Hill Scottish Cup clash with Brechin.
“Looking at the team out in Dubai last week, I was much happier with where we are in this moment than where we were last year.
“There is a much clearer way in which we work now. So that’s improvement and development for me.
“I know we’re better. Sometimes you may not have the points to show it. It’s all about perception and my perception as a coach is that the team is developing really well.
“Now we’re looking to really attack the second part of the season and with a lot less games to play we’re hoping to get back to the intensity that we have played most of our games with.”
Rodgers has kept his January recruitment to a minimum so far, with Marvin Compper the only new face to have joined his squad to date.
However, the German’s debut will have to wait after he picked up a calf strain during the club’s Middle East training camp.
That means 19-year-old Kristoffer Ajer could be thrust back into action for the fourth round clash with Darren Dods’ part-timers – and possibly next month’s Europa League showdown with Zenit St Petersburg too.
But after his mature display against Rangers before the winter break Rodgers insists the youngster has his full faith.
“He’s made big strides,” said the Northern Irishman.
“He came here as an 18-year-old having played first team football in Norway but needed to get used to a more physical game.
“But I’ve been really impressed by him. At 19 he’s shown up very well any time he has played for us. The last period that he played for us he was exceptional really.
“There’s still a lot for him to improve on but that’s what we will have to do and I’m sure he’s got a lot of development left to become a better player. So far he’s doing very well.
“I don’t think there’s any question he’s ready to play in some of the big games coming up. Celtic-Rangers is always a huge game and I thought he dealt with that side of it very well.”
Brechin sit bottom of the second tier without a win but Rodgers will take nothing for granted when they visit Parkhead.
“I’m sure Brechin will provide a tough test for us,” he said. “Ok they are bottom of the Championship with just four points but they’re certainly playing for their manager.
“We’ve never been lazy on any opponent, no matter who they are, and Brechin will get the same respect as every other team.”
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