THERE is always a lot on the line when Celtic play in any competition, particularly for the club’s manager. Any defeat, of course, is a disaster, while even a draw can be treated as verging on the catastrophic.

That is particularly the case when it comes to a one-off knockout cup tie, such as the one that lies ahead on Sunday as the Viaplay Cup holders take the defence of their trophy – and indeed their Treble – to Rugby Park.

It is a tie that appears riddled with potential pitfalls. Kilmarnock are a team in form under Derek McInnes, and the arguments for and against their artificial surface are almost as well worn as the plastic pitch itself.

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To add another layer of intrigue, Brendan Rodgers takes his team there protecting his own proud record of having never lost a cup match as Celtic manager, with the Northern Irishman enjoying a perfect domestic record during his first spell in charge of the club.

Rodgers acknowledges the significant financial advantages he enjoys over most of his competition, but even still, he says that shouldn’t mask the scale of that achievement. There is peril and jeopardy he argues in every one-off tie, so his players across those years deserve enormous credit for grinding out those victories.

“It’s something I’m very proud of,” Rodgers said.

“I’d an amazing time in doing it as well. We created some great memories and moments over the course of the cup competitions, and I hope to do something similar this time. But it will be a very difficult game.

“Obviously Kilmarnock, as you saw against Rangers, are very hard to beat and that’s Derek [McInnes]’s teams. To be fair, they are always very competitive - some of the best organised in the country. 

 “And he’s an experienced manager, and a very good manager. So, we prepare for a very tough game.

“If you want to win any cup competition you have to be able to get over hurdles that can be difficult and challenging and that will be Sunday’s game.  

“So much can happen in a one-off game. There are so many variables. I think over the course of the games we played, we played with a great discipline in our game, our preparation and our mentality. 

“We treated every game like it was a cup final whether it was the league or a final. Every game we were ready for. We’d some tough games in that as well, especially on the back of European competitions. 

“They are all tough games. I think everyone would love a home game in front of your own supporters. That’s the ideal scenario – with the surface. 

“But that’s the nature of cup football, that you can be drawn anywhere and you have to be ready for the challenge. 

“I’m really, really proud of the record and hopefully we can keep it going.”

As Rodgers alludes to though, he expects his 100 percent cup record to undergo a serious examination at Rugby Park, with Killie on the up under the guidance of a manager he hugely admires.

“They’ve had two good results – an outstanding result against Rangers when they did very well and the game away to Hearts as well was a good result for them,” he said. 

“They’ve obviously had other cup games to qualify. 

“It’s not surprising. Derek getting promoted with Kilmarnock and having a year to assess the players at that level and having the opportunity to change it around and then you start to see him put his stamp on the team. 

“His teams are normally competitive and hard to beat.”

Rodgers will not be able to call upon injured duo Cameron Carter-Vickers and Reo Hatate, who both limped out of the win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie last weekend.

“We just need to see how they are over the next week or two,” he said.

“Cam has a slight hamstring and Reo slight calf. They won’t be ready for this weekend and the surface is obviously too much of a risk. We’ll assess them over the coming week.

“There isn’t a specific time on it. We just need to see how they are over the next week or so.”

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The injury to Carter-Vickers though may open up an opportunity for new arrival Gustaf Lagerbielke, with the Swedish centre-back impressing Rodgers during his first few training sessions at the club this week.

“He will definitely be in the squad,” he said.

“It’s about him coming in and adapting and seeing how he is. He’s in a really good place physically and up to speed with the game so he’s another consideration for us.”

The man who did replace Carter-Vickers last Sunday – and performed admirably in doing so – was Stephen Welsh, who also picked up a slight knock in training this week. That bit of bad news for the 23-year-old was though offset by the confirmation of a new four-year contract at the club on Wednesday.

“When I first came in, he was a young player I really liked in the youth team,” Rodgers said.

“I took him to Austria with us and I liked his attitude and energy. He’s gone on to play a host of times for the club.

“It was a big decision because at 23 he maybe hasn’t played as much as he would have liked. But he loves the club and being here and he came through here as a kid.

“This is where he wanted to be. I said to him I’d like him to be one of the four centre-halves here.

“He’s very honest to the game, trains really well and like last week when he comes in against Aberdeen he was really good.

“So, I’m delighted for him he’s re-signed.”