Friday 9 December 2016

Rodgers fires up Celtic to fight for their season

Roddy Forsyth

Published 01/11/2016 | 02:30

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers and Scott Brown in training yesterday. Photo: Reuters / Russell Cheyne
Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers and Scott Brown in training yesterday. Photo: Reuters / Russell Cheyne

Celtic are up against the percentages tonight in the toughest of the Champions League groups. If they lose here and Manchester City take a point or more at home to Barcelona, the Hoops have no future in this season's tournament.

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Celtic would then have at least to beat City at the Etihad or Barca at Parkhead to maintain a chance of Europa League football after Christmas.

On form and probabilities, the most promising prospect for Brendan Rodgers and his squad is to eke something from this evening and hope that Barcelona do them a favour by winning in Manchester to keep the lower- placed teams within reach of one another.

Celtic's task has been made even tougher by the loss through injury of three defenders in Kieran Tierney, Kolo Touré and Jozo Simunovic.

Rodgers did not hint at his line-up but the likelihood is that Cristian Gamboa will come in at right-back to release Mikael Lustig for centre-back duties alongside Erik Sviatchenko, with Emilio Izaguirre at left-back.

An additional disruption has been the lack of suitable accommodation in Mönchengladbach, which has led Celtic to base themselves an hour away across the Dutch border at Venlo. They were thus unable to train at the Borussia Park stadium. Rodgers, though, remained upbeat.

"We go into every game in the hope that we can win. You have to," he said. "The next three games are all tough but one thing you learn in football is that the impossible can become the possible.

"Realistically, we'll go in as underdogs and the only way we can challenge that is to put in the maximum effort that we can and play tactically and with concentration to the highest level.

"The game against Mönchengladbach at home was disappointing. It was the least effective that we've played."

Mönchengladbach coach André Schubert has pushed the obvious button with his squad, reminding them that they won 2-0 with a weakened side at Celtic Park.

"It was said that after they almost beat Manchester City that they had to regard Gladbach as the weakest opponent of the group but in the first leg the Celtic fans were relatively restless because they realised that their team did not find any real openings against us," he said.

The match will be played in front of a 54,000 capacity crowd and Celtic know from two weeks ago that the German fans are as noisy and persistent as their own.

An early goal for Schubert's side will fuel the racket, but there is one weakness which could work against them, if Celtic can find the means to exploit it.

Aggressive

Mönchengladbach have failed to score in 374 minutes of Bundesliga football, including their past two home appearances. Celtic were caught cold by the visitors' unexpectedly aggressive start at Parkhead.

Scott Sinclair is one of those charged with keeping Gladbach too busy at the other end of the field to spring the same surprise again.

"First of all, we need to start off quickly," the winger said.

"We have to get on the front foot, get the ball and keep possession. We need to be aggressive in our pressing and build from there."

Rodgers also gave a hint that Celtic would attempt to set the pace early when he said: "Gladbach produced a real high level of performance but there is no reason why we can't come here and do likewise.

"If we win it still gives us an opportunity in the final group games - and that'll be the message from me." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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