Ange Postecoglou describes Old Firm game with Rangers as one of the biggest games on the world football calendar; the Celtic boss also opens up on his transfer strategy; Celtic hold a nine-point lead at the top of the table over Rangers ahead of Monday's Old Firm clash, live on Sky Sports
Monday 2 January 2023 12:42, UK
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou says playing an Old Firm game at the turn of the New Year makes one of the biggest games in world football extra special.
Rangers and Celtic go head to head at Ibrox in their second Scottish Premiership clash of the season, exclusively live on Sky Sports, with Rangers aiming to claw back a nine-point gap to their rivals at the top.
The Ibrox side have won every game under new boss Michael Beale, since his appointment at the start of December, and Postecoglou knows Celtic will have to be at their best to keep a rejuvenated Rangers at bay.
"Cracking game! It's one of the biggest games on the world football calendar," the Celtic manager told Sky Sports.
"Not just in Scotland, but everyone around the world knows Celtic vs Rangers at any time of year is a special one, but especially around the new year time.
"I'm looking forward to it, it should be a great atmosphere, they're up and running, they've had some good form so it should be a good game."
"They've changed slightly in terms of their shape. Obviously, Michael hasn't had a chance to change personnel too much yet, but whenever you get a new manager there's a new energy within the building and you can see that in the first three of four games he's been in charge."
Celtic have just made their third winter signing, with Japanese Player of the Year Tomoki Iwata joining from Postecoglou's former club Yokohama F Marinos following the arrival of Alistair Johnston and Yuki Kobayashi.
Iwata is Celtic's sixth signing from the Japanese top-flight since Postecoglou took over following his move from the J-League at the start of last season.
"I'm really pleased to get Tomoki in. He's someone I know really well," Postecoglou said.
"I coached him at Yokohama and actually brought him to Yokohama and was probably one of the ones I wanted to bring in last year, but we'd already taken Daizen Maeda and out of respect, I didn't want to go there again, but he made the decision that he was definitely going to leave this year.
"He's a really good footballer, he can play a couple of different positions for us, a really hard worker at training and someone who will add quality not just to the starting XI but to the squad.
"He's had a great year. They won the championship and he's ended up player of the year. It doesn't surprise me because he's the kind of player who will constantly work hard and improve. He's not going to stand still and that was evident with his form this year."
Asked if the other Japanese players will help Iwata adapt, Postecoglou said: "Yeah to a certain extent, but Tomoki has been working on his English because he knew this move was going to come at some point and it wasn't necessarily going to be to Celtic.
"A lot of these players nowadays are preparing themselves to move overseas irrespective of the environment.
"We've had a few players join us not just from Japan but all over the world. We've got a really good environment here where we look after them both on and off the pitch, but the players have taken it upon themselves to make sure when they enter a new environment, they can settle as quickly as possible."
Iwata's compatriot Kobayashi, and Canada right-back Johnston could potentially make their debuts against Rangers, and Postecoglou said he is pleased to get key transfer business done early.
"It depends on what you're trying to achieve, but i just feel it worked well for us last year," he added.
"We know January is a month where these things happen, but invariably they end up happening towards the end of January and you kind of miss a whole month of football.
"For us, we've already got Ally Johnston and Yuki Kobayashi in, they've been training with us for a couple of weeks so they'll be ready and available straight away and Tomoki won't be too far away either. So it just gives you an opportunity to bring the guys in and be ready to perform without having to wait a whole month."
Postecoglou played down the prospect of anyone leaving Celtic soon, despite players including Josip Juranovic reportedly attracting interest from other sides.
"There's been no contact [for any of our players] yet," he added. "If it does happen, then we'll deal with it and I guess having already brought three players in we're kind of comfortable with the position we are in.
"If clubs do come in for our players, we'll assess each situation individually and see what the benefits are for us, the player and the club, but the key thing for me is that we don't have to be too stressed about the incomings, because we've already done our business."
The world has been reeling from the death of the legendary Pele, and Postecoglou was unequivocal in his assessment of the Brazilian, describing him as "the greatest football player ever".
"I never got to meet the great man," the Celtic boss said.
"It's hard for us to contemplate in the present day, because we kind of marvel at the likes of Lionel Messi winning a World Cup at 35, but winning a World Cup at 17, that's something that like I said, we can't really conceptualise right now.
"He won three World Cups, had such a unique career because he was the kind of player who we would be saying now has to come to Europe to prove himself. He was such a patriotic person, had a unique football career and to be honest stands alone as the greatest football player ever."
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