BRENDAN Rodgers has given a strong indication that Dedryck Boyata, Mikael Lustig and Kieran Tierney will all return to the Celtic side for the matches with Aberdeen and Rangers away this week if they are fit due to their big game mentality.

Rodgers admitted that youngsters Mikey Johnston and Anthony Ralston were in contention for starts in the Ladbrokes Premiership matches at Pittodrie on Boxing Day and Ibrox on Saturday as a result of their performances against Motherwell and Dundee at Parkhead last week.

However, the Northern Irishman looks set to bring back Boyata at centre half, Lustig at right back and Tierney at left back for the final two games before the winter shutdown because of their extensive experience of such important fixtures.

Victories over Derek McInnes’s side and Steven Gerrard’s team away from home would give the double treble winners, who are attempting to win their eighth consecutive Scottish title, a huge lift before the break and extend their lead in the league.

Boyata (hamstring), Lustig (concussion) and Tierney (groin) all missed the 3-0 victories over Motherwell and Dundee, but they are expected to be available again.

Ryan Christie and Tom Rogic, who had been out with ankle and knee injuries respectively since the Europa League defeat to Salzburg earlier this month, both featured on Saturday.

Rogic won’t be involved against Rangers because he will fly out to the United Arab Emirates after the Aberdeen game to play for Australia in the Asian Cup.

Asked about Boyata, Lustig and Tierney, Rodgers said: “They automatically come into the squad. It’s been great to see Mikey and Tony being outstanding, but they are big players.

“Tony has shown his defensive qualities, but he’s not only been hard to beat. He’s kept the field compact and he has technically and tactically developed in terms of when he presses and where he receives it.

“That’s what I want. He’s shown over two games that he can do it. We’ll look to pick the best team and we’ll assess where we’re at in the next few days.”

But he added: “You can’t doubt them (Boyata, Lustig and Tierney) in terms of what they have done for me over the last two and a half years. They have been getting better and you can’t doubt their mentality.

“Okay, sometimes we’ll lose games. But we had 29 games at home in a year and have won 24, drawn three and lost two, to Aberdeen on the last day when we were waiting for the trophy and against a very good Salzburg side. It shows you consistently where these boys are at. There’s no doubt they will turn up.”

Meanwhile, Rodgers also stressed he expects Odsonne Edouard, the French striker who missed the Dundee match on Saturday due to an abductor injury, to be fine for both the Aberdeen and Rangers matches. “We just shut him down for a few days and we’ll assess him over the next few days,” he said. “He should be okay.”

Meanwhile, Rodgers expressed optimism that Leicester City will allow Filip Benkovic, the Croatian centre half who netted the third goal for Celtic against Dundee at the weekend, to remain at Celtic on loan until the end of the 2018/19 campaign.

“They are within their rights to assess it but let’s hope he stays,” he said. “They have a few young players out on loan playing – Harvey Barnes at West Brom and Filip here. They are getting games in their legs and you see the value of Filip to us. He’ll continue to play and he’s been superb for us.”