MOUSSA DEMBELE’S performances this season have been a microcosm of Celtic as a whole.

Not quite as good as before, mixed with some glimpses of brilliance, and the hope is for a strong finish to an up and down campaign.

Dembele has cut a frustrated figure at times. It took him longer than expected to recover fully from a hamstring injury picked up just over a year ago, then he couldn’t usurp Leigh Griffiths, and when he has looked like his best self, the very next performance tended to be a disappointment.

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It’s important to remember that Celtic’s French striker is still 21 and has 44 goals from 79 appearances since moving from Fulham 18 months ago. Given his age and problem with fitness, this is not a bad return for £500,000.

However, Dembele is a lot better than he’s shown. Ibrox this Sunday would be the perfect time and place to remind everyone, especially the Rangers players, of his talent.

Brendan Rodgers believes his player is nearing the level where he was a year ago, something the manager put down to him being able to get on with his work without any transfer talk. At least for a couple of months.

Asked if he felt Dembele was getting back to his best, Rodgers said: “Yeah, and I think the background noise has gone. That’s absolutely key for any player.

“I think what you see now is a young player free in his mind to focus on his strengths. When he is that he is a real handful. He was terrific in the game here against Zenit. In the game over there he played very well when the team, collectively, was not at its best.

“But against Aberdeen he showed his power and now he is just moving, as I would expect. You have to work really, really hard. You have to have an intensity and we see that in his game now. He is using his strength, his power and he is a top class young striker.”

Dembele scored five goals against Rangers last season including a hat-trick and last minute League Cup semi-final winner. The only way was down.

When himself, the French under-21 man is some footballer but even the best struggle when their body lets them down.

“It’s never easy when you have those muscular injuries,” said Rodgers, “And again it’s coming to terms with so many games. He started the first part of last season and it was very good. The second part was unfortunate, he was injured for a lot of that period.

“He started this season a little bit like that but it could be the second part of the season he comes alive. There is no doubt he has that hunger and energy back in his game. It’s very important for us.

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“The unfortunate thing, especially with dynamic and fast players, is that they can tend to have the issue of trusting their bodies. Moussa had a few and you are always trying to monitor and watch it. But there are various reasons for that.

“He has worked very hard to get his fitness right and get his level of fitness and like you see now he looks much better.”

Dembele has form for raising himself for the bigger games, which is all very well, but Celtic goalscorers really should live up to their job title in every match. A certain Swede certainly did that.

This upcoming match at Ibrox promises to be a fascinating encounter given what’s at stake.

Rangers have improved but Celtic are the better side and if Rodgers can get the best from the man who will lead the line, it would be difficult to see past a fourth consecutive win for Parkhead men at the home of their old friends.

“Moussa, I think, is a big-game player,” said Rodgers. “However. players need to do it at Celtic in every game. But certainly in those big games he has always come up trumps and shown his qualities.”

That’s not quite true. Dembele was awful in the last derby and so he could do with making up for that odd performance.

The £40m link with Chelsea of 15 months ago wasn’t as ridiculous as some would make out but he’s not looked anything like the dynamic player he proved himself to be.

A fully-firing Moussa Demebele is the most dangerous weapon in Scottish football. Rangers will hope the player of last season who did so much damage won’t make an appearance.