CELTIC midfielder Stuart Armstrong admits that the winter break is coming at a good time for the champions, after a gruelling opening half of the campaign.

Brendan Rodgers’s side have looked a little jaded of late, dipping below the exceptionally high standards they set themselves, as their 69-game unbeaten run came to an end with the emphatic defeat at Hearts.

Wins over Partick Thistle and Dundee steadied the ship, but the Celtic players again looked leggy in the draw with Rangers, their 38th competitive game of the season as they have competed on three fronts.

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“For me, personally, it’s what I needed,” Armstrong told the Celtic View.

“There are a lot of tired legs and that can be seen by the number of games we have played and the amount of effort we have put into each match.

“The break has come at a nice time and I’m looking forward to it. Physically, your legs need to recover and with the amount of games you play, it’s important to get rest and re-energise, and for the mid it’s important to get away from football sometimes with the relentless schedule we have.

“We have done exceptionally well to manage all of those fixtures and come out where we are now.”

Armstrong will join the rest of the Celtic squad in a mid-season training camp in Dubai this weekend, the same destination they visited in January of last year, and they will be hoping that a spot of warm-weather training will give them a similar boost to last season, when they went on to claim a clean sweep of the domestic honours.

“It is probably longer than the summer break we had, and it’s very important,” said Armstrong.

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You have a couple of weeks to get some sun and some training in, along with some rest. There is a nice balance and we have no fixtures for a couple of weeks so it’s a nice feeling.”

Armstrong concedes that the second-half display and the final result against Rangers at Celtic Park represented a disappointing way to end a wildly successful year, but he takes solace from the character his side showed to at least avoid defeat when they were far below their best.

“We wanted to win, we wanted to go into the break off the back of a good win and performance,” he said.

“Sometimes, when you don’t play your best, you still need to take something from the game and that’s what we did.

“It was a physical, high-pressure game and it was important that we came out with something. In the first half, we created a lot of chances and had a good foothold in the game, and in the second half we were a bit slow to get started and they had a number of chances, so a draw was a fair result in the end.

“Usually under pressure, we cope well and play it out. But it wasn’t as fluid as we would have liked and it did get more physical and more scrappy.”

Despite their disappointment at the result that ended 2017, manager Rodgers has urged a sense of perspective among his players as they enter the new year.

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“He wanted the three points and so did we,” Armstrong added.

“However, sometimes that can’t be, and he told us not to forget the incredible year that we had.

“There wasn’t much of a break in the summer and now we’re sitting here in the new year looking back at all of our achievements, so we should be happy and proud.

“It’s been a long year for us with a lot of football, and it’s been one of the busiest seasons we have had.

“We can look to the end of last season and the start of this season as a whole and 2017 has been a very successful year, and it’s been quite incredible what we’ve achieved. We wanted three points against Rangers, but we got a point in the end, and now we can take a rest.”