Brendan Rodgers ready for Cup semi with Rangers after league draw with Partick
CELTIC boss Brendan Rodgers revealed he has set his sights on Rangers following the 1-1 draw with Partick Thistle at Parkhead.
The Hoops boss made five changes to the side which clinched the Ladbrokes Premiership title against Hearts on Sunday.
Scotland internationals Scott Brown, Kieran Tierney, James Forrest and Stuart Armstrong were rested – the latter came on after the break – along with Dedryck Boyata.
Scott Sinclair, who scored a hat-trick in the 5-0 win at Tynecastle, opened the scoring early in the second half but after Thistle striker Ade Azeez levelled, the Hoops forward had a penalty saved by Jags keeper Tomas Cerny.
Rodgers, pleased to see midfielder Tom Rogic return as a second-half substitute having been out since December after suffering an ankle injury, is now working towards the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final against the Ibrox men later in the month.
He said: "After the weekend our next peak is the semi-final. So that's what we are building towards.
"This is why I needed to make the changes tonight. If I didn't make them tonight and I made them against Kilmarnock, and then we are building into the Ross County game and then the Rangers games.
"It might mean some players who are asked to play in the Rangers game, if they played tonight then were rested against Kilmarnock they would maybe have got one game in 18 days.
"You're always trying to gauge the momentum of your team and I thought this was the game to make the changes.
"But over the course of the next couple of games the team will be pretty stable to give us that momentum to hopefully arrive in a peak condition for the semi-final."
Celtic remain unbeaten domestically this season, winning 28 and drawing three of their 31 league games.
Rodgers said: "I thought it was probably a fair result in the end. I was actually really pleased believe it or not.
"We've come back from Sunday, how well we played, we clinched the title...so to come into this game and make a number of changes so players get game-time, and you are playing against the second form team in Scotland, along with Aberdeen.
"So we knew it was going to be a difficult game for us."
Thistle picked up their first point at Celtic Park since 1994 and manager Alan Archibald was especially pleased for keeper Cerny, whose mistake against Kilmarnock recently cost Thistle two points.
The sixth-placed Jags are four points ahead of Kilmarnock with two games remaining before the split but Archibald is not taking anything for granted.
He said: "We are not there yet but it is in our own hands.
"We have a tough game against Motherwell on Saturday.
"I'm just pleased Ade got his reward with the equaliser. He has worked hard for us up there and deserved that.
"I was delighted for Tomas Cerny saving the penalty. The fingers were pointed at him at Rugby Park when he made a mistake a few weeks ago against Kilmarnock.
"But he has saved us a number of times and I'm glad he put that to bed tonight because it's been preying on his mind a bit."
Rangers' hopes of rescuing second place suffered another setback as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.
Gers were hoping to pile the pressure on Aberdeen ahead of Sunday's trip to Pittodrie but their Ayrshire stalemate leaves them 12 points adrift of the Dons with just seven games remaining.
Yet new boss Pedro Caixinha will feel hard done by following his first away game in charge after seeing Joe Garner's header hit the bar and a clear handball from Conor Sammon go unpunished.
The point also does little for Killie's top-six ambitions as they remain in seventh, four points behind Partick with two games to go before the split.
A Joe Shaughnessy header after 73 minutes was enough to separate the two sides at McDiarmid Park as a narrow 1-0 win over Hearts saw St Johnstone leapfrog Ian Cathro's side and move into fourth place in the table.
The visitors had Sam Nicholson sent off seven minutes after an assistant referee reported he had been spat at by the substitute.
Hamilton midfielder Darian MacKinnon was also sent off for aiming an obscene gesture at the crowd during the 0-0 draw with Motherwell. MacKinnon was targeted by a home fan and reacted negatively, flicking a one-fingered salute that referee Kevin Clancy saw as a red-card offence.