Sunday 25 February 2018

Home comforts remain central to further progress for Rodgers’ ‘ego-free’ Bhoys

Victory essential with Celtic facing difficult away trips in Europe - and visit of Barcelona

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers (Photo: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers (Photo: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Roddy Forsyth

There is, as history emphasises, no place like home for Celtic on Champions League nights.

To give themselves a fighting chance of European football after Christmas, Brendan Rodgers and his players must extend Parkhead's reputation as an inhospitable venue when Borussia Monchengladbach pay their first visit to the east end of Glasgow tonight.

By full-time Group C will have reached its halfway stage and, if Celtic win, they could find themselves level on points with Manchester City should Barcelona prevail against Pep Guardiola's side in the Nou Camp.

Anything short of victory over Monchengladbach will leave the Hoops facing a tough struggle to eke adequate reward from the second tranche of fixtures, which includes trips to Germany and Manchester plus the visit of Barcelona - never a home banker, even for Celtic.

For Rogers, though, there is also the prospect of another significant stage in the development of his squad.

Despite being overcome by the minuscule might of Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar and sustaining the worst European beating in the club's history at the hands of Barcelona, the manager has put down significant markers by achieving Champions League group stage football and demonstrating how to discomfit Manchester City, while hammering Rangers between times.

Now he seeks Celtic's first group stage victory under his stewardship and was gratified to report that the appetite for improvement amongst his squad has exceeded his expectations.

"Am I surprised? Yes, because in the modern footballer there is a lot of ego, but this group have no ego," Rodgers said.

"We have set a standard from the first day, in terms of training and what we expect on and off the field.

"They might not always be at their best but they have given their best every single day and I think that tells you where we are at.

"We have 28 players, a full batch available, and four goalkeepers, and they all respect that they will push one another every single day.

"I have never had a bad word amongst them.

"The spirit is great, they really galvanise each other and today we had probably the best I have seen in terms of the type of session we were doing."

Rodgers spoke of the need to learn urgent lessons from the 7-0 demolition by Barca in the Nou Camp.

Erik Sviatchenko - a player he has singled out as a particularly keen student - testified that the startling improvement between Celtic's performances against Barcelona and Manchester City was proof of rapidly acquired wisdom.

"If you believe you can take the ball off Luis Suarez, you will take it.

"If you are afraid of him, he will probably go past you," said the Danish central defender." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Celtic v Borussia Monchengladbach, Live, eir Sport 1, 7.45pm

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