John Kennedy says that Celtic are ready to face the challenge of Rangers as the champions near full strength for the trip to Ibrox next weekend.

The Celtic assistant took the place of manager Brendan Rodgers in the dugout as he served his touchline ban in the 3-0 win over Livingston at Almondvale, and he was particularly delighted with the performance of the returning Reo Hatate in the midfield.

With captain Callum McGregor in contention for next Sunday after not being risked on Livingston’s artificial surface, and with Cameron Carter-Vickers restored to the heart of the defence, Kennedy feels that Celtic are in a good place for the challenge of taking on Philippe Clement’s men.

“Yes, I think we are,” Kennedy said.

“If you look at the way we're attacking and our control, especially today. Our attacking game has really clicked the last little while, especially with having the front players and even Nick (Kuhn) coming into the equation.

“Initially he had a period off, he came in kind of unfit, but you can see he's now up to speed and Yang's back from suspension. We've now got options. It's not just the starting players, it's what comes in behind that.

“We basically changed the front three today and the second front three was still strong. We've got lots of options and everybody will contribute.

“It's like any other game. We just have to approach it the same as we have done and not get involved in the emotional side. Sometimes that can be a burden so for us it's about focusing on our training and making sure we're prepared for the game.”

Hatate was withdrawn after 65 minutes at Livingston to protect him ahead of the game at Ibrox, but he did more than enough in the time he was on the pitch to excite Kennedy, and the Celtic support, about his return.

“He was on it right from the first minute and he has been in training, which is why the gaffer thought to get him in the team quickly,” he said.

“He’s been terrific the last few weeks. He came back in in good condition and worked really hard.

“We had the [bounce] game last week to give him some minutes and he was really good, so it was time to unleash him.

“I think you can see what he brings to the team, and even when he came off, Paulo (Bernardo) came on, gave us a bit of buzz and got his goal.

“I think that’s always the case with your best players. He’s shown that, in terms of big games and big performances.

“He’s obviously not fully up to speed but I think we can see today that he’s in pretty good condition, and it’s just the confidence he brings to the team as well.

“He plays with that composure. Even on a difficult pitch, you can see how he brings a calmness to the game. He sees the passes which the front players thrive on and he gives us a slightly different dynamic.

“It’s important to have him back. It’s just about getting him through the week now, getting him that extra bit fitter going into next week.

“The squad is taking shape. Cam has another 90 minutes under his belt and with Reo back in we’ve pretty much got a full bill of health. We’re in good shape going into the run-in, but for us it’s just about focusing on performance and maintaining that level.”

Kennedy believes that one of the reasons for Celtic’s relative inconsistency this term has been the spate of injuries to key players that they have suffered, and he believes that they will be a different beast for the final run-in with a clean bill of health for almost the first time this season.

“The injuries have hampered us, but the squad are looking good,” he said.

“You see it in training, you sense it in training, the numbers are starting to come back up, the quality's starting to come back in, and the standard starts to raise.

“Outwith the Hearts game, when we went down to 10 men very early, we'd scored 17 goals in four games and we've scored another three today, so in that respect it's very pleasing.

“Obviously we want to stay on top of our defensive game and not slacken off, and if we do that, we get performances like that where we dominate games and give nothing away. That's always the objective, to have that level of performance.”