Cha Du-Ri has his sights on troubled Hearts as Celtic seek to keep up the pressure on Rangers at the top of the table.

The Ibrox side play Hibs at Easter Road on Saturday in the lunchtime kick-off before Celtic host Hearts at 3pm.

It will be something of a revenge mission for the Parkhead side who lost in Gorgie back in October when the club were lurching precariously from one game to the next.

Having found their form of late, Celtic have succeeded in slashing the deficit at the top to a palatable four points, a gap that Lennon would love to maintain going into the Old Firm game on December 28.

Cha, who is finding his feet since returning from injury, is confident that Celtic can maintain their recent form.

"We have to beat Hearts because we lost the first game against them," said the South Korean international.

"That will give the players even more motivation and I think the first half will be very important.

"We are at home too so I hope we can use that to our advantage. It is always difficult going there so we want to make it just as tough for them to come to our stadium."

Cha is hoping that the break this week will give Celtic the opportunity to get rid of any knocks and bumps that players have been nursing as they have come through a demanding run of games.

Captain Scott Brown has returned from injury and he heads a list of players preparing to fight for a place in the side again.

Cha himself is just back in the side after being sidelined, while Emilio Izaguirre – who has been out since breaking an ankle at Pittodrie in August – also has a return within his sights.

It will strengthen Neil Lennon's hand as the title race heats up and the absence of a midweek match means that it should be a revitalised line-up that steps out to take on a Hearts side in turmoil.

"The players will have some rest," he told the Celtic View. "I was injured and don't need it as much as the others, but they have had a lot of games during the week recently so they will need this.

"I hope they can take this rest and be fresh for playing Hearts on Saturday."

Cha is desperate to help Celtic claw back Rangers and is keen to be a regular feature in Lennon's first team.

"It was frustrating getting injured during the international week but I hope now we can keep getting these wins and I can stay in the side," said the full-back.

"I only trained for two sessions before playing 90 minutes against Dundee United but I was happy that the gaffer gave me a chance to play, this is what I want.

"I played well but I got a bit tired in the second half.

"That is normal, though. I am not the youngest and I was out for two-and-a-half weeks. I am happy that I played and even happier we won."

While Cha has acknowledged the magnitude of this month's festive Old Firm meeting, he has urged caution and insisted that Celtic cannot afford to look too far ahead of themselves.

Lennon's side face St Johnstone in Perth and Kilmarnock at home on Christmas Eve after the meeting with Hearts. Both sides have recently taken points off Rangers and will be keen to make it a double Old Firm scalp, something the 31-year-old is well aware of.

The last thing Celtic need is to stumble prior to the Old Firm game and allow Rangers the opportunity for breathing space.

The history books tend to show that it is the form team who wins the derby match and if Celtic can keep their momentum going they will fancy their chances against a Rangers side who have stumbled recently.

"In the last few games we have played very well and picked up some important points," he said.

"At the same time Rangers have dropped points so we have managed to close the gap and it makes the game at the end of the month a very big one.

"But before that I hope we have enough to see out the next few games to keep this run going."