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Former Celtic player Charlie Mulgrew believes Brendan Rodgers was “bang on” to target having fun against Rangers, despite Philippe Clement’s complaints.

Mulgrew enjoyed the early verbal crossfire ahead of Saturday’s derby clash at Celtic Park, which is set to have a major bearing on the destination of the cinch Premiership trophy.

The Celtic manager appeared to get under his rival’s skin when he was talking about his side’s mentality in the wake of their 3-0 win over Hearts.

Rodgers said: “Take nothing for granted, keep our composure, we have a lot of work to do in the week, get our plan ready and then next Saturday we can have a bit of fun.”

Rodgers and Clement
Clement and Rodgers embrace at Ibrox (Andrew Milligan/PA)

After Rangers cut the gap back to three points and five goals with a 4-1 victory over Kilmarnock 24 hours later, Clement said: “That it is something that I would never say about an opponent. It’s not really respectful towards my team.”

When asked about the exchange, Mulgrew told Sky Sports News: “I love it, I think it’s brilliant. It adds to the occasion. The fans love it and both sets of fans are relishing it.

“Rangers fans I can imagine are delighted with the response from Clement. It’s brilliant from Brendan Rodgers putting that out there.

“I think it all adds to it, it’s a bit of fun, it’s what this occasion brings. It gets everybody up for it, the fans are looking forward to it.

Charlie Mulgrew
Charlie Mulgrew in his Celtic days (PA)

“There is a lot of anxiety amongst the players, I would imagine, and staff. But you have got to have fun. Brendan Rodgers is right, you have got to go out and enjoy it, because that’s what we grew up doing as football players, you grow up and want to play football to enjoy it.

“If you go and enjoy it, you know you are doing well. You will work harder if you are enjoying it, you will press higher, you will keep the ball. So he is bang on with ‘go and have fun’. Obviously Rangers want to have fun as well, so it will be a great game.”

Mulgrew does not feel Clement was drawn in by Rodgers.

“I’m sure he just wanted to have that pop back to show he is backing his players,” the former Scotland captain said.

“I am sure he will be right back to business in getting his team ready for the game. I am sure that is his main focus, he is an experienced manager.”

Charlie Mulgrew, left
Charlie Mulgrew (left) on punditry duties (Andrew Milligan/PA)

A draw would keep Celtic very much in command of the title race with two games then to come, but Mulgrew feels the champions will be better suited playing for the win.

“I think you have just got to keep going how you have been going – picking up results, playing good football,” he said.

“Things are looking good for Celtic at the moment, three points (ahead) at the top of the league.

“I don’t think there is much point over-thinking the game, over-thinking the occasion. Everybody knows the importance of the game.

“It’s important, as much as the fans are anxious and building the occasion up, that in-house the Celtic players and staff approach it like any other game, although that’s difficult.

“You have to take care of the 90 minutes and look to put on a performance and stick to the game plan that the manager has put in place.”