If anyone at Celtic needs the down time this week, it’s Callum McGregor.

The Parkhead midfielder has clocked up more minutes this season – 3,743 to be precise – than any other European player in the top tiers. McGregor’s stats work out at one game every four days since July, a relentless schedule that has seen him hit 41.5 games since the season began.

Little wonder then that he was eagerly anticipating a bit of chill out time before Celtic pull the boots back on in Dubai next week.

The only problem for McGregor, though, was the manner in which a successful year came to its conclusion. The defeat at Ibrox left a sour taste despite the trajectory of McGregor’s career continuing its overall ascent.

“It was a poor way to finish what was a great year,” observed the Scotland internationalist. “It was a sore one to take because we felt that we just didn’t do ourselves justice against Rangers.”

If anyone could draw a positive from their performance against the Ibrox side it was McGregor and Craig Gordon. The dup were the only two who turned up in a game in which Celtic were uncharacteristically run ragged with McGregor, even at left-back, Celtic’s best outfield player.

Despite the difficult of the afternoon, McGregor remains upbeat that the break will re-energise Celtic as they look to go again later this month.

The Parkhead side’s opening game of the year is a Scottish Cup tie against Airdrie which comes on the back of a week’s training in the sun with the midfielder confident that Celtic can return with a bit of swagger to their game.

Brendan Rodgers’ side are top of the table on goal difference with a game in hand but it is an unusual position at this stage of the season given the manner in which they have largely lorded it over the rest of the league since the 45-year-old’s arrival at the club.

By this stage in Rodgers’ previous two campaigns, Celtic have been out of sight at this stage but domestic slip ups this term – four on the road so far – have kept the Parkhead side within touching distance as Kilmarnock, Aberdeen and Rangers have all kept pace.

“It has been competitive but from our point of view we just want to focus on what we can do and I’m sure the break will do us good,” said McGregor. “We have played a fair bit of football already so it will be good to go and get our feet up for a bit before getting ready to come back and go again.

“There is a lot of hard work now to be done in the second-half of the season and we are fully focused on getting on with it. It is not all doom and gloom – we have won the League Cup and we have Europa League football to look forward to in February and I think that while we were all gutted at the defeat and the manner of the defeat on Saturday, you have to look at the bigger picture.”

And McGregor also believes that the feeling of being on the losing side on Saturday will be something that can motivate the Celtic players as they look to go for an eighth successive title.

“There are a few of our boys who don’t know what it is like to lose a game to Rangers,” said McGregor. “It is a pretty hellish feeling and it isn’t one that you want to go through too many times.

“Over the piece we have had a good run at it but the feeling that stays with you is probably what it is to walk off the pitch having lost the game. You can use that. You have to take that and make sure that it works in your favour and that you come back stronger from having gone through it.

“It happened to us before at Hampden a few years back and we came back pretty well from that. It is important now that we look to do the same and come back to start producing some consistency between now and the end of the season.”

Celtic have not been helped by injury either. Kieran Tierney missed five games in December with an ongoing hip complaint while Odsonne Edouard was crocked in the home win against Motherwell but was forced to play sporadic minutes because he was the only striker at the club.

Leigh Griffiths is out for the foreseeable future as he deals with personal issues while the injury problems to Filip Benkovic and Mikael Lustig hindered Rodgers’ scope to change the game at Ibrox.

“A full week with no football at all should help some of the boys and even then if there are any of us still struggling with knocks then you still have the chance to get over it before the games start coming.

“I think it is probably as beneficiary mentally as well as physically although I have to say that I am not one to complain about playing too many games. I quite like the games coming thick and fast and I think it is a reflection of a successful season but at the same time it will be good for the guys who have been struggling recently to properly get themselves match fit.”