Brendan Rodgers expects Cameron Carter-Vickers to be fit enough to return to the Celtic defence for Saturday’s cinch Premiership match at home to St Johnstone.

The influential centre-back has had an injury-disrupted campaign since undergoing knee surgery at the end of last term and he sat out Sunday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final victory over Livingston as a “precaution” after feeling a “twinge” in his hamstring.

Carter-Vickers has been given the all-clear after a scan, however, and Rodgers is optimistic that the American will be available for the visit of Saints.

“We will have a look at Cam, I think he should be fine,” Rodgers told Celtic TV. “I spoke to Cam at length (on Tuesday), he just feels everything is based from around his knee operation.

“And then also, when you have picked up a few injuries from that, maybe from what is a normal twinge, you get that sensation and think it’s linked to another injury. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem that.

“We’ve had the scan which has come through fine. He’s done some work with the medical team and hopefully he will rejoin the training squad on Thursday and Friday and be available for the weekend.”

Luis Palma and skipper Callum McGregor will remain sidelined by injury until after the international break but Rodgers is hoping his team – who lost their last league game away to Hearts – can get their Premiership title bid back on track when they host Craig Levein’s Saints.

“Craig’s team will be very hard to beat,” said Rodgers. “They will be diligent. Even though we should have won the game earlier in the season (in August), we drew 0-0, we missed chances and they showed courage to defend the way they did.

“In the game up there (a 3-1 win in December), the first half wasn’t at our level, that tempo of the game.

“But once we injected that tempo and took it out of our comfort zone, we took the game to a really high level and it was difficult for St Johnstone to stay with us.

“That is the key for us, maintaining that consistency and mentality to keep the game up at a high level. When we get to that point and arrive at that moment then we look a very good team.”

Brendan Rodgers was transported back to his first spell in charge of Celtic as his side struck six first-half goals against Dundee.

Celtic have lost top spot in the cinch Premiership since the winter break, drawing twice and winning narrowly in their other three league games.

But they rediscovered their groove with their biggest victory of the season as they thrashed Tony Docherty’s side 7-1 at Celtic Park.

There were seven different scorers for Rodgers’ side as Cameron Carter-Vickers, Adam Idah, Matt O’Riley, Daizen Maeda, Greg Taylor and Callum McGregor struck before half-time substitute Daniel Kelly curled home his first goal for the club.

Rodgers said: “It was a top performance. We had players coming back, connecting the game, speed in the game, creativity and a real ruthless mentality.

“I have said about the pitch a few times but a big congratulations to the staff who have been working hard over the past few weeks to get it to a level that allows us to play at that speed. And you can see the difference it makes.

“So I thought all round, from the stands to the pitch, it was a great night for us.”

Rodgers, whose side remain two points behind Rangers, added: “It felt more like when I was here the first time – that ruthless mentality of the team, simplicity of the game and the football we played. And that’s why we are here, to entertain the supporters.”

Rodgers had called for positivity in the stands before the game and the noise at the half-time whistle was more akin to a Champions League night, helped by the fact that Kilmarnock were beating Rangers before a second-half fightback from the leaders.

Rodgers said: “There was a really nice moment at half-time when they were coming in. The fans could see then how the level of performance had jumped up. We had everything we wanted from the game – the runs, the movement, the ambition.”

Dundee’s second-half performance offered some comfort for Docherty, whose side got a consolation through substitute Michael Mellon despite having Finlay Robertson sent off.

But Docherty was still reeling from their first-half collapse during the post-match media conference.

“It’s something I have not seen in the group so I am actually a bit shocked to see the level of goal we have conceded,” he said.

“We need to take ownership and responsibility for that, for not defending crosses, not defending our box properly, getting done by cutbacks, getting done on the insides.

“I have to say I thought Celtic were outstanding but we can do more and we need to take responsibility for that.

“But I have to defend those players, they have been brilliant for me this season and there has to be a wee bit of reality in terms of us being a newly-promoted team. I am not taking away the accountability from myself and the players and I would like to apologise to the support.

“But I will always back that group of players because I don’t think we have been lower than seventh in the league.”

Celtic hit form with a 7-1 victory over Dundee following a first-half goal spree at Parkhead.

Cameron Carter-Vickers started the rout in the seventh minute and goals from Adam Idah, Matt O’Riley and Daizen Maeda had Celtic four up before the half-hour mark.

Greg Taylor and Callum McGregor made it six before the break and Daniel Kelly marked his league debut with a brilliantly-taken goal.

Dundee were down to 10 men through Finlay Robertson’s red card when they pulled a goal back from Michael Mellon, although the atmosphere had already lost a bit of an edge following Rangers’ comeback at Kilmarnock.

The Light Blues’ 2-1 victory keeps them two points ahead of Celtic at the top of the cinch Premiership.

However, Celtic have moved back to one behind on goal difference and secured a morale boost with their biggest win of the season after struggling to find their groove since the winter break. They had drawn twice in their previous four league matches and needed stoppage-time winners in the other two.

Manager Brendan Rodgers had called for positivity from the stands on the eve of the game after referencing the dissent that greeted one of his substitutions during the champions’ late win at Motherwell on Sunday.

His players ensured there was no opportunity for any negativity to emerge, although Dundee twice came close in the first two minutes through Curtis Main and Owen Beck.

Beck had kept Maeda quiet at Dens Park on Boxing Day but Yang Hyun-jun got an early edge when he got past him and drew a foul which earned the on-loan Liverpool left-back a booking.

There was further punishment from O’Riley’s free-kick as Carter-Vickers rose above Amadou Bakoyoko to head home his first goal of an injury-disrupted season.

Beck was fortunate not to receive another booking from referee Matthew MacDermid for a reckless tackle on Yang and Celtic continued to put the visitors under pressure as O’Riley was twice denied.

The home support were given another boost when news emerged of Kilmarnock’s opener and Idah had them celebrating in the 18th minute with a brilliant header from Alistair Johnston’s cross to net his fifth goal since joining four weeks ago.

O’Riley ran on to Taylor’s perfect cross to head home four minutes later and the midfielder turned provider as his pass found Maeda’s run across the box. The Japan international had plenty to do but a brilliant touch fooled Joe Shaughnessy and he curled into the far corner.

O’Riley sent a brilliant volley off the bar from 22 yards and Taylor’s run into the box was rewarded when Johnston’s cross ultimately fell for him as the left-back stroked home from eight yards in the 36th minute.

Main had a goal disallowed for offside following a VAR check before McGregor drilled home in stoppage time after an exchange of passes with Taylor with Yang once again involved.

Celtic went off at half-time amid noise akin to a Champions League night but the atmosphere dampened down as news of two quickfire goals from Rangers filtered through early in the second half.

Dundee manager Tony Docherty had made three half-time changes and his side looked more compact but half-time substitute Kelly showed composure beyond his 18 years to curl into the top corner after Yang’s low cross came to him on the edge of the box.

The Celtic Park DJ dug out the Magnificent Seven theme tune that used to follow Henrik Larsson’s many Parkhead goals and more fanfares looked on the cards.

Luis Palma curled off the Dundee bar and Robertson received a second yellow card for a late challenge on Johnston in the 76th minute.

However, it was Dundee who added to the scoring eight minutes later when Mellon volleyed home a cross from fellow substitute Aaron Donnelly.

Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart has revealed he wanted to end his playing career on his own terms and could not imagine finishing it at any other club.

The 75-times capped England international this week announced his decision to retire at the end of the season, when he will be 37.

The former Manchester City player rejuvenated his career after moving from Tottenham in the summer of 2021, adding a clean sweep of Scottish domestic trophies to his full collection of English major honours.

And he wants the focus on his future to quickly switch to his attempts to continue that success as Celtic bid to rise to a strong title challenge from Rangers after losing top spot in the cinch Premiership last weekend.

Hart said: “I have loved every moment of being here, myself and my family, it’s been everything and more than I wanted it to be, and I will be forever proud that I represented this club.

“The most pleasing thing for me is a lot of the people here respect that I come and I give my all. Whether it’s good, bad or indifferent.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of times when people wanted me in, wanted me out, but that’s the life of a goalkeeper. But ultimately you are respected as a person, and welcomed into a really special club.

“I will be 37 at the end of this season. What direction the club wants to go, whether I fitted into that, I wasn’t too sure. We didn’t even have that conversation.

“I certainly wasn’t interested in going and trying to play anywhere else.

“So I felt, right, I wanted to be strong and fit and ultimately happy. If there is such a thing, I feel I am in that place, and I feel like it’s the right time.”

Hart, who made his first-team debut for Shrewsbury 20 years ago, added: “I looked at what age I’m going to be, I’m aware of all the stresses I have put myself through body-wise all through my career.

“I didn’t really want to wait and be told. And with the cycle of the three years I have managed to do here, I wasn’t interested in playing anywhere else. It just felt right.

“I felt like I know and I wanted the club to know because I have a lot of love and respect for this club and I want the club to move forward to bigger and better things.

“No-one needs the speculation of whether a regular starter is going to be offered a contract, sign a contract, whether he is looking elsewhere. That’s a needless narrative when all of us are on the same page so I thought it was important to address it.

“There will be a couple of days of noise but after that no-one will care. ‘Oh right, Joe is retiring at the end of the season, Celtic need a goalkeeper, but right now he is there and he is going to be head down and fully fighting for this special club’.”

Hart’s decision gives manager Brendan Rodgers one less big call to make as he plans for what appears to be a crucial summer transfer window.

“I think we are very clear on what we need to improve on within the team and the squad,” said Rodgers, who welcomes Alistair Johnston and Cameron Carter-Vickers back from injury for Sunday’s trip to Motherwell.

“But certainly with Joe going, that really quickens that up in terms of needing to bring in someone for next year.”

Stephen Welsh can draw on 15 years of pressure at Celtic as another season moves towards a tense and exciting run-in.

The 24-year-old defender came through the club’s youth ranks before making his debut in February 2020 during a 4–1 win away to Hamilton.

Welsh has had to fight for game time since but has taken over recently from injured Cameron Carter-Vickers and he was again paired with Liam Scales for the trip to St Mirren on Sunday.

The Scottish champions have been criticised at times this season for their performances but the 2-0 Scottish Gas Scottish Cup win in Paisley, which set up a quarter-final clash with Livingston next month, made it eight wins and a draw in their last nine games.

Celtic also lead Rangers by three points at the top of the cinch Premiership, albeit the Light Blues having the chance to go top against Ross County at Ibrox on Wednesday night with their game in hand.

Welsh, who signed a new four-year deal last August, said: “I’ve known the pressure for 15 years now. Every week you need to go and win.

“You enjoy it as well, you enjoy the pressure because you need to win. A draw or a defeat is a nightmare so yeah, we know the pressure and we stand up to it all the time.

“We are used to this. Every season the pressure for every Celtic player is huge.

“We deal with it really well. Especially the last couple of seasons, we have been very successful and it is about us maintaining the standards to be successful again and go and win the trophies that are available to us.

“There is always a determination in this group. Not only the quality but the character that we have.

“We have a lot of experienced players who have won trophies. We won a treble last season so the experience we have in the team is excellent.

“We take every game 100 per cent, every training session leads up to the next game so for us, it is normal for us to be under that pressure and we always deal with it very well.

“We are always strong together. We know that every team wants to beat Celtic and our job is to win games, perform well and win trophies for the club.”

Welsh is delighted to be back in the first team and enjoyed a tough test against the Buddies who succumbed to goals from Japanese duo Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda.

He said: “It was a frustrating first few months, I had a bad injury and was out for four or five months so to get back into the swing of things, that is my first 90 minutes in a while so delighted with the clean sheet as well. Joe Hart had to make a couple of saves but that is what he is there for.

“They are a physical team and they like to put balls in the  box.

“It is very effective for them. We had to deal with it and I thought we dealt with it well as a back four and Joe included.

“We are together, we are really a united team so we will move forward.”

Brendan Rodgers is hopeful Cameron Carter-Vickers will brush off his Dens Park injury concern to face Rangers.

The Celtic manager also gave his strongest suggestion yet that Reo Hatate and Liel Abada could feature in Saturday’s derby.

The champions ensured they will go into the Parkhead clash on top of the cinch Premiership by beating Dundee 3-0 thanks to Paulo Bernardo’s first Celtic goal and substitute Mikey Johnston’s late double.

But the sight of Carter-Vickers walking off with the physio shortly after the 52nd-minute opener briefly curtailed the visiting fans’ celebrations.

The influential centre-back missed two-and-a-half games with a hamstring complaint earlier this month and Celtic fans will hope the latest issue does not lead to a similar outcome.

“He’s hopefully OK,” Rodgers said. “He felt a bit of tightness and we had said to him before that he didn’t need to be a hero. If he felt anything, just come off. We’re hoping he’s OK but we’ll find out in the next couple of days.”

Abada last played for Celtic in their victory at Ibrox on September 3 before suffering a thigh injury while training with Israel. Hatate has been out for two months with a hamstring injury.

“They could be around it,” Rodgers said. “It’s another thing being ready to start, of course. Liel looked really good on the field when he trained with the group (on Christmas Day).

“We kept him at home to do another session to build him up. We’ve missed his running, his goals. He’ll be brilliant for us for the second part of the season.

“Reo is at a good level but not a level to start. We’ll see how he goes over these next few days.

“He’s training hard, working well and it will be like having two new players when we get those two back.”

Celtic also saw Bernardo and Johnston give themselves a major morale boost. The on-loan Benfica midfielder poked home from close range before Johnston cut in from the left to fire his first Celtic goal since December 2019 and then added another following a one-two with Matt O’Riley.

Rodgers said: “For Paulo it was really, really good. He’s such a mature player for a young player.

“Mikey can make that impact. The challenge for Mikey was the fact that he had played a lot of games back to back, and he hasn’t done that much for Celtic.

“It can give him confidence. The beauty with Mikey is that he’s stayed fit. It’s up to him whether he’s going to be a Celtic player, but we keep working with him and we feel he can come into the game and make an impact.”

Celtic had 37 shots at goal and 23 corners but Dundee manager Tony Docherty felt his side had shown a good defensive structure in the first half.

“It was important that we kept that defensive structure but I just felt they had a couple of chances just before that making those trademark Celtic runs down the side, and they get their goal,” he said. “I thought it was really fortunate.

“But once they get that first goal, then you see Celtic and the quality they bring off the bench. They are a real quality team.”

Cameron Carter-Vickers could be in line for a surprise recall when Celtic host Lazio in the Champions League on Wednesday.

The centre-back has not played since suffering a hamstring injury against Aberdeen on August 13.

With Gustaf Lagerbielke missing through suspension following his red card in the Group E opener against Feyenoord, and Maik Nawrocki and Stephen Welsh still out through injury, Rodgers has limited options in central defence.

Liam Scales is set to continue in the team following his impressive recent form, while on-loan Liverpool Nat Phillips is available after coming off the bench at Motherwell on Saturday to make his first appearance since suffering an ankle injury on his debut against Dundee on September 16.

Manager Brendan Rodgers said: “In terms of Nat, he came through fine so he will be available.

“Cam, we wouldn’t take a risk unless he was fit. He has come through really, really well. He is further down the road than we thought.

“He has had a real good week of training and he’s been doing lots of other work out on the field before that.

“I said before that it (his return) might have been after the international break but he’s made great progress, so we will just assess that to see if he can be in for the squad (on Wednesday) and if he is, then obviously it would be great news for us.”

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