Rodgers rejects Rangers disrespect claims before derby

Scottish Premiership: Celtic v Rangers

When: Saturday, 11 May Where: Celtic Park, Glasgow Kick-off: 12:30 BST

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has dismissed accusations of showing Rangers a lack of respect as "without merit".

Rodgers had said the league leaders "can have a bit of fun" in Saturday's Old Firm derby, prompting a spiky response from Ibrox boss Philippe Clement.

But Rodgers says the line was used with "no context whatsoever" and repeated his admiration for "one of the most iconic games in world football".

Celtic are three points ahead of their Glasgow rivals, with just three matches remaining as they seek a 12th title in 13 years.

"I have never referred to these games other than being intense, being competitive," said Rodgers.

"I love it. It’s one of the reasons I am here, the great pride and privilege I have in managing Celtic in a Rangers game. So the whole emotion, the whole feeling around this game is absolutely amazing.

"I have seen some of the headlines around the ‘disrespect’ and whatever else but it is totally without merit. I would never be that person to disrespect another manager or another team."

Rodgers has an impressive derby record, with 12 wins and only one defeat in 16 meetings with Rangers over his two spells at Celtic Park.

"The record is great but it’s always about building – building more memories and great occasions," he added.

"I understand the feeling and tension that can be around this game but that’s not me.

"My job is to find the calmness for the team and the players have been very, very relaxed but focused this week. The preparation has been first class."

With the finish line so close, Celtic will be in a commanding position if they avoid defeat, but Rodgers is only thinking about victory.

"Our intention is to win the game, so we don’t prepare for anything else," he said. "We look to attack the game. That’s our only focus and we’ll see where that brings us."