Power of stadium can help us cause a stir - Rodgers
Published 28/09/2016 | 02:30
As though Celtic's Champions League qualification was insufficiently awkward and Group C not merely the toughest of the sections, the background noise to their campaign has been that of the rumble of bulldozers pushing additional obstacles into their path.
When they travelled to the Nou Camp for their opening fixture, Brendan Rodgers and his players found that the fearsome Barca attacking trident of Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar would play together for the first time this season, a combination which duly delivered a 7-0 thrashing and Celtic's worst European result.
Now they must face a Manchester City side who have been steered by Pep Guardiola to the club's best start to a season and is one game short of equalling another record of 11 consecutive wins, set by Manuel Pellegrini last season. Celtic are leading the Scottish Premiership and have savoured a couple of one-sided romps as they beat Kilmarnock 6-1 on Saturday and Rangers 5-1 two weeks previously.
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That, though, is very far removed from parity of esteem, as one appraisal of the relative worth of the two squads indicated, with the Celtic team who took the field against Kilmarnock rated at £20 million and City's value 25 times greater at £500 million. That said, neither calculation factored in the Parkhead effect, the impact of Celtic's home ground on Champions League nights.
It is always an imponderable but, at its most potent, it can turbocharge the Hoops' endeavours, as Barcelona, AC Milan, Juventus and Manchester United have all found to their cost.
As Barca's midfielder, Javi Hernández, said in the aftermath of his team's 2-1 defeat in 2012: "The stadium is a marvel - the fans, the people, how they support their side. It is an example for every team."
Rodgers, too, agreed that the gladiatorial atmosphere of Celtic Park can, when its regulars lift their game - on and off the field - be influential. "Yeah, there is some relevance to it," he said.
"There have been 24 games here at that level, of which Celtic have won 16 and only lost three. It's an incredible record which shows you the power of the stadium and what it gives to the team - and, of course, those teams they played against were really good teams as well.
"AC Milan came here all-conquering and made out that it was going to be easy and they lost 2-1. The reality is if Manchester City bring their 'A' game and we bring our 'A' game, they win, but we know we have to make it as uncomfortable as we can for them."
An injury to Dorus de Vries means Rodgers will restore Craig Gordon as goalkeeper and admitted that he might previously have forced the issue of which should be the preferred candidate. "Craig and I had a real good chat when I was going to make the change," he said. "Dorus was injured and he'd come back and maybe I pushed him in too early, to try to impose that way we want to work, so I take that responsibility. The beauty of it is that Craig wants to improve and I think he has done.
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"It's given him a determination to show and when you're fighting for your place and your position it allows you to perform better and focus. He's been first-class."
Rodgers played a back five against Barcelona but to no avail against the MSN trident. Against a scarcely less daunting attacking force, he might be inclined to try to stem threats as they generate further upfield.
"(Sergio) Aguero who is a world-class striker - (David) Silva, too. They are hard to tie down because they will always find space. My experience of managing against Manchester City - and my teams have always done fairly well, particularly at home - shows that you have to negate that as much as you can," he said.
"Raheem (Sterling) is back on track to be one of the world's top players. It's a huge task for us but De Bruyne being out helps as he's a big, big player for them and has been so far this season.
"City are on a great run and it will end at some point - why not us being the ones to end it? That has to be the attitude." (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Celtic v Manchester City, Live, RTE 2, 7.45