Brendan Rodgers buoyed by Celtic return of Gary Mackay-Steven
Last Updated: 01/12/16 4:20pm
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has welcomed the return of Gary Mackay-Steven to his squad as he prepares for a busy December.
Mackay-Steven, 26, has been sidelined since undergoing an ankle operation at the end of last season, but was on the bench for last week's Betfred Cup final win over Aberdeen at Hampden Park.
Starting with the trip to Motherwell on Saturday, the champions will play eight Premiership games before the turn of the year, with their final Champions League group fixture against Manchester City also lying ahead next Tuesday.
With that congested fixture list in mind, Rodgers will utilise his squad, with winger Mackay-Steven a welcome addition.
The former Swansea and Liverpool manager said: "I have a number of boys here who have been absolutely brilliant in training every day.
"Gary Mackay-Steven is really up to speed in terms of his fitness and I am actually looking forward to seeing Gary play.
"It has been very difficult for him because he missed out over the course of pre-season and by the time he was coming back the team was up and running. James Forrest, Scott Sinclair, Patrick Roberts, these guys were really playing well so it was difficult for him to get a chance.
"The likes of him, Ryan Christie, Liam Henderson, Cristian Gamboa, Dedryck Boyata, these are boys who have been on the outside, working very hard but haven't had a lot of game time.
"But they are so important to what we are doing here as a squad because for us to be at our best, the players who aren't playing need to be at their best every day and that's what improves you as a player.
"So they will be critical for us in this period and I am sure they will get some game time."
Celtic have played 12 games but are already eight points clear of Hearts at the top of the table with three matches in hand.
Rodgers insists it would be "ridiculous" to suggest the title race is already over because "you just never know", but he is looking to stretch their lead before the New Year celebrations.
He said: "It is a brilliant opportunity for us to accumulate a lot more points. That is the focus.
"You are playing every two to three days but we have a good squad here and they will all be needed, and that's why it is important that everyone in the squad feels a part of what we are doing because we will need that squad over this December period in particular.
"Every manager will say that it is a tough ask to play that many games in that period of time but if it is what is presented to you, you have to deal with it.
"We won't moan, we will get on with it and it will provide us with the opportunity to work our squad."