Saturday 18 January 2020

Bhoys keen to avoid slip-up on brink of reaching group stages

Rodgers: Maintaining momentum Picture: PA
Rodgers: Maintaining momentum Picture: PA

Ronnie Esplin

Celtic assistant manager Chris Davies insists complacency will not be an issue in tonight's Champions League play-off tie against Hapoel Be'er Sheva in Israel.

The Hoops have a commanding 5-2 lead from the first leg at Parkhead and warmed up for the trip to the Turner Stadium with a 4-2 win over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday.

Boss Brendan Rodgers played a strong team in Perth to keep momentum going and Davies, speaking at Glasgow Airport before the Celtic party flew out, stressed that after getting past Lincoln Red Imps and FC Astana in the qualifiers, the Hoops squad are fully focused on the task ahead.

"There will be no issues of complacency with us," he said. "We have been very clear with the message with the players. The players are very focused, you can see the focus is there.

"Yesterday we had an opportunity where we could possibly have rotated some players but we didn't, we chose to keep them in, win the game and keep the winning mentality.

"And from what we have seen from the players led by Scott Brown the captain, who is a real colossal figure for the team, there will be no issues of complacency with us, we know what we have to do.

"It is about being in control defensively but having an attacking threat, which we have shown we have got in all the games.

"The mentality in our approach is that it is half-time, just as we said when we came back from some difficult first legs and took the teams back to Celtic Park.

"That's what it is, we are 5-2 up but it is half-time. We have to perform with and without the ball, defensively have control, offensively have a threat and hopefully we can have a result in the end."

The Parkhead club are on the cusp of making the group stage for the first time in three seasons which, according to Davies, would be just reward for the work put in this season.

He said: "We are all very focused, the club deserves it, the fans deserve it, the players deserve it.

"Everybody has been working very hard and we have a big job to go away and get the result that we all so desperately want."

Celtic were given a boost with Patrick Roberts joining the travelling squad after recovering from a hamstring injury and the winger has a chance of featuring tonight.

Davies said: "He is obviously coming back from injury. He has had a few days training so it is a possibility."

Meanwhile, Celtic fans have tripled their initial target of raising £15,000 for Palestinian charities in a bid to match an impending UEFA fine for their club.

The European governing body last week launched disciplinary proceedings against Celtic after a number of fans displayed Palestinian flags during their 5-2 Champions League victory against Hapoel Be'er Sheva in Glasgow.

The Green Brigade group of supporters subsequently launched an appeal on the gofundme website to match UEFA's fine and they hit the £45,000 mark early on Monday evening, a day after the fund was set up.

The fans are raising money for Medical Aid Palestine, which delivers health and medical care to those "worst affected by conflict, occupation and displacement", and the Lajee Centre, a cultural and sports project for children in Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem.

A statement explained that the money would help buy football kit and equipment to enable the refugee camp to have a team, which will be called Aida Celtic, in the Bethlehem youth league.

Celtic face their ninth UEFA punishment for supporter behaviour in five years when the case is heard on September 22, which include a fine of more than £15,000 two years ago after a Palestine flag was displayed at a Champions League qualifier against KR Reykjavik.

The UEFA rule in question forbids the use of 'gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit any message that is not fit for a sports event, particularly messages that are of a political, ideological, religious, offensive or provocative nature'.

Hapoel Be'er Sheva v Celtic, Live, BT Sport 2, 7.45pm

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