Celtic V Hearts at Celtic Park : Match Preview

28 January 2017
Celtic V Hearts - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Brendan Rodgers says Celtic are reaping rewards from hard work

Brendan Rodgers' Celtic side could take one record from the Lisbon Lions against Hearts but he sees it primarily a consequence of maintaining standards.

Dedryck Boyata's second-half header gave the Ladbrokes Premiership leaders a 1-0 win over St Johnstone at Parkhead on Wednesday night which extended the Hoops' unbeaten domestic record to 26 games from the start of the season.

That feat was last achieved by Jocks Stein's all-conquering side of 1966/67 but ahead of the visit of the Jambos on Sunday, Rodgers is looking for his side to firstly keep up their good work.

He said: "The players have shown an incredible appetite and desire to go 26 games unbeaten and of course our main objective for the game is to get three points.

"We want to keep pushing, keep striving to be the best we can be and it's another home game for us.

"We love to play at home and the consequence of that could be that they stand alone as improving the record, but that will be the consequence of performing well and winning.

"The squad have had a great period domestically but we want to sustain it.

"That's something which is important to us. We know it'll be a tough game but we'll be ready."

Rodgers revealed that Boyata will keep his place in the side after playing in back-to-back games for the first time this season.

The 26-year-old Belgian defender had previously only featured against Kilmarnock before he was reinstated versus Albion Rovers in the William Hill Scottish Cup last weekend.

Rodgers said: "It's like having a new player. Everyone has seen his qualities in the last two games he's played.

"I'm blessed now, I've got good players fighting for positions and players can see it's difficult. If they're out of the team someone can come in.

"Dedryck's a perfect example of someone who's so committed to training even if he hasn't been playing because he knows that if the chance comes, he wants to be ready to take it.

"I thought he was outstanding the other night.

"So for him, it's about finding consistency. He will play on Sunday and it's up to him now to stay in the team.

"He's a good guy, he's 26, he hasn't had so many games in this first part of his career but he could go through the next 10 years now until he's 36 and really go and show the top-quality player I think he can be."

Hearts head coach Ian Cathro admits just the thought of Sam Nicholson playing football makes him smile - but he is in no rush to try to persuade him to extend his contract.

The midfielder is set to continue his comeback from knee surgery at Celtic Park on Sunday after making his first appearance in almost four months as a substitute in Wednesday's William Hill Scottish Cup win over Raith Rovers.

The 22-year-old is out of contract in the summer and agreement over a new deal does not look imminent despite talks commencing in the autumn.

Cathro said: "I think about Sam playing and training and I almost start smiling. I enjoy the kid's work.

"I am obviously still in a process of getting to know him and spending more time with him in training and working together, but I have enjoyed seeing his work. He has nice qualities."

Nicholson is now free to talk to other clubs and Rangers have been credited with an interest.

But when asked about the wide player's contract situation, Cathro said: "We can maybe look at those things further down the line but I am just getting to know him.

"He is just coming back from an injury, which was his main focus. There was no need for any focus to be on anything else.

"His focus now is on properly returning to the team, gradually building up his minutes and becoming stronger, and then reach a point he is ready to fight for a place in the team.

"That has to be a natural process. I am in no rush for Sam to do anything other than fight for his place in the team."