Sunday 18 February 2018

Rodgers hopes to draw first blood in race for third

Celtic's head coach Brendan Rodgers. Photo: Virginie Lefour/AFP/Getty Images
Celtic's head coach Brendan Rodgers. Photo: Virginie Lefour/AFP/Getty Images

Roddy Forsyth

If they can prevail against Anderlecht or leave Brussels with a point from their Champions League tie this evening, Celtic will evoke echoes of last season's campaign in the same tournament.

Just over a year ago, their campaign began with a 7-0 battering by Barcelona, but Brendan Rodgers' men revived to halt Manchester City's winning start to the season in a 3-3 draw at Parkhead.

This time around, a 5-0 thrashing by Paris Saint-Germain at home was ameliorated by the knowledge that the beating had been administered by a club with access to vast financial resources and the personnel to match.

The realpolitik of Group B is that PSG and Bayern Munich will dispute the pecking order for places in the knockout stage while Anderlecht and Celtic are in the dogfight to claim a place in the Europa League.

The Brussels side have already made a fundamental management change with Rene Weiler taking the fall after two wins from seven league matches, with caretaker Nicolas Frutos in charge tonight.

"This is the game that both teams will be looking at to have a realistic chance of playing in Europe after Christmas," Rodgers said.

"Anderlecht reached the quarter-finals of the Europa League, so they are still a very tough opponent. They are no mugs."

Celtic look more secure at the back than they have been in previous European campaigns, with Dedryck Boyata back alongside Jozo Simunovic. They also have Moussa Dembele available and it would not be a surprise to see him start this contest as striker, with Leigh Griffiths on hand to supplement or replace him, depending on the flow of events.

The Anderlecht players are reportedly on a €45,000-per-man win bonus. Celtic, though, will attempt to trade in the currency of their domestic domination. "We will try to play the game we play at home when we are away from home," said Rodgers. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Anderlecht v Celtic, Live, BT Sport ESPN, 7.45

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