Glasgow: Celtic assistant manager Johan Mjallby defended the decision to rest several first team players after his side left it late to grind out a narrow 1-0 win over strugglers St Mirren on Saturday.
The Hoops made a number of changes from their comfortable midweek win over Hibernian which seemed to disrupt the league leaders as second from bottom St Mirren put in a performance that belied their lowly status.
However the decision to leave such key players out nearly backfired as a well-organised St Mirren side held Celtic at bay until substitute Kris Commons came to the rescue with a 79th minute winner.
At Parkhead Freddie Ljungberg made his first league start for the club while South Korean internationals Ki Sung-Yeung and Cha Du-Ri came in for captain Scott Brown and Mark Wilson who were one booking away from a suspension that would have seen them miss Easter Sunday‘s final Old Firm showdown.
But Mjallby said the Celtic squad should be strong enough to cope with the loss of such influential players.
"We have a big squad to choose from and we made three changes and they are fit enough to be able to play a bit better than they did," the Hoops assistant boss said.
"We always miss Scott Brown as he is our skipper but that is not an excuse for the other players coming in and we think we have a good squad anyway."
"You are always going to miss Scott's leadership and his energy but at the same time we had to make a decision about his yellow card situation because playing him and restricting him by telling him not to use that energy in case he picks up a yellow card would have been silly.
"Some players we want to use for the Old Firm game and we need to be clever. On the other hand it is good to rotate the players because it does you no good to have players that haven't played anything.
"It was good for Cha Du-Ri to come back and get 90 minutes and also Shaun Maloney. Freddie Ljungberg has been training really well and it was good for him to get nearly 90 minutes.
"We've got a good enough squad anyway and it shouldn't be a big issue in a way.
"We were expected to win this game and we believed we would win it but obviously it would have backfired if we hadn't have got the three points.
The win extended Celtic's lead over their Old Firm rivals Rangers, who are away to Hamilton on Sunday, to five points.
However the Celtic boss said rather than worrying about Rangers the most important thing for Celtic was getting the three points from the game.
"During the course of a season you need to grind out results as well and we know we weren't at our best. It was hard and they made it hard work for us but it was nice to see the winning goal go in," Mjallby said.
"The good thing for us is we got the points on the board. There are too many games left to be worrying about Rangers. We are just focussing ourselves on making sure this winning run continues."
"Sure we gave them a bit of a row at half-time and we wanted them to use their energy in a better way and pass the ball a bit quicker which they did."
"But it is all about us right now. If Rangers keep winning as well we will see what happens."