Brendan Rodgers is not surprised by Kilmarnock’s flying start to the season as he prepares to renew rivalries with the manager who posed him the biggest challenge during his first spell as Celtic manager.
Former Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes has had the chance to reshape his squad ahead of his second full season in charge at Rugby Park.
McInnes’ Aberdeen side finished as runners-up to Celtic in both of their title-winning campaigns under Rodgers during his first spell in charge, and in three of the five cup finals he won.
Rodgers was therefore not fazed as Killie started their cinch Premiership term with a win over Rangers and a draw at Hearts.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “Obviously he did a fantastic job at Aberdeen and when I was up here first time they were always very competitive, always very tough games.
“He got promoted with Kilmarnock and now he is looking to establish them in the top division, and after that first season he is putting his own stamp on it. He has been able to refresh the squad, get the profile of players that he wants in.
“I watched the game against Rangers and they did very well. Derek’s teams are always very well organised, some of the most competitive in the country, and he is a very experienced and excellent manager. So I anticipate a tough game for sure.
“They are very difficult to play against, that mixture of man-to-man and zonal and they defended deep.
“The surface always plays a part but we can’t have any excuse going into the game.
“We are in the competition to try and win it and if you are going to do that, you have to beat good teams and overcome difficult opponents.”
A 3-0 Hampden win over the Dons in the League Cup final in November 2016 marked Rodgers’ first major trophy of his managerial career and he hopes to follow that success to kick-start his second spell in Glasgow.
“I enjoyed that side of it when I was here last time, there is something to play for early on which is great,” he said.
“So having that opportunity to get to a final early on in the season is very good.
“We have to work hard to get there, you have to earn the right.”