CELTIC boss Brendan Rodgers has warned their Ladbrokes Premiership rivals that his side will return from their winter break feeling fresher than ever.
The Hoops manager has taken his team to Dubai for a week of warm-weather work-outs.
And he reckons the sunshine trip will allow his men to wipe the weariness from their legs after a gruelling six-month run that has seen the Parkhead side rack up 36 games already.
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That is the last thing the rest of the top flight will want to hear, though, with the rampant league leaders currently running off into the distance with a 19-point lead.
Rodgers told CelticTV: “The last six months of 2016 have been a great period for us as a club. The supporters are happy, which is important.
“The players are also happy and working well. And we’re gaining results, which is the business we’re in. But in 2017, we want more and we need to be better. To do that, we need to improve our game and this early part of January allows us to do that.
“When I got the schedule of games through back in the summer, I felt that this was going to be an important period for us.
“I felt if we were going to go all the way in competitions and qualify for the Champions League, this was going to be a real opportunity for us to press the reset button.
“After the game on New Year’s Eve, we gave the players six days off to be with their families. Then we came out here to Dubai and while we’re still working very hard, it’s a chance to recuperate the body, to recover and relax.
“We can also grow closer together as a squad. If we have any new players to come in, they can join us here and adapt.”
Celtic have travelled to the United Arab Emirates with 19-year-old Kouassi Eboue as they close in on the Ivorian’s £2.8 million capture from Russian outfit FC Krasnador.
Rodgers is still waiting for his midfield target to get clearance for a work permit but he revealed the remaining three weeks of the January window will be spent eyeing up players who can take his team to the next level.
“I don’t think we need too many players but my feeling coming in here was that January would be a big month as we prepare for pre-season,” explained the Northern Irishman.
“If we can go forward into the Champions League qualifiers then that is going to be important for us.
“We’re trying to build something here for over the course of the next few years. For that, there are certain elements of the team I feel we need to improve and strengthen to help the players already here.”
Rodgers and midfielder Stuart Armstrong touched down in the Middle East to find a pair of trophies awaiting them at the team hotel after they were named manager and player of the month for December.
With eight league wins and a Champions League draw away to Manchester City, Rodgers was the stand-out candidate in his category.
And he paid tribute to Armstrong, who struck five goals during the festive season to prove he has shaken off the period of frustration he spent stuck on the wing under former boss Ronny Deila last term.
Rodgers said: “Stuart has been absolutely brilliant in the last few months. He has really grown into that role of how I would ask the number eight to play and his game play has been sensational.
“The beauty of Stuart is that there are still improvements that he can make, which is only going to make him a better player.
“But he thoroughly deserves his award and he should feel really honoured by that, because his performances have allowed it.”