Sport Soccer

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Rodgers' focus firmly on final after European exit

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA
Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA

Tommy Byrne

Celtic will shrug off their European exit in midweek to focus on winning the first domestic trophy of the season today, according to Brendan Rodgers.

The Hoops' 2-0 defeat by Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday night meant the Scottish champions, with the last fixture at Manchester City remaining, will finish bottom of Group C with no European football after Christmas.

However, the champions take on Aberdeen in the Betfred Cup final at Hampden Park today (3.0), and Rodgers insists their European disappointment will have no bearing on their determination for success.

"We haven't really reflected on it as of yet," he said. "I felt the players were very good in the game in terms of the performance, but we have another game to go in the competition and we will reflect a little bit more after that in terms of where it is.

"Our ambition and hunger have been very much evident since the beginning of the season. It's no more or less, it's as it has been for every game we have played. This, again, is a chance for us to get our hands on the trophy and is something we are looking forward to."

Celtic have beaten Aberdeen twice this season, 4-1 and 1-0, but Rodgers is expecting a battle at the national stadium. The former Swansea and Liverpool boss said: "Derek (McInnes) sets his teams up very well. It was two very tough games against them. They have got good players, they will have a full week's preparation to get ready for the game, so I anticipate another tough game."

Victory for Celtic would give them the first leg of a domestic treble, but it is not something that is concerning Rodgers. "I hadn't even thought about this game until the final whistle against Barcelona," he said. "My thought is always to the next game. We want to win everything, we said that at the beginning of the season, Celtic is a winning club. We always respect all the teams we play, so in terms of a treble, I haven't really thought of that."

Rodgers admits that losing injury doubt Scott Sinclair would be a blow, but he insists there are players in the squad who could fill the void. The 27-year-old former Aston Villa winger was forced off at half-time on Wednesday with a hamstring complaint and the manager will give him until the last minute to recover from his knock, although Leigh Griffiths returns after recovering from a tight hamstring.

He said: "We will give Scott to the very last moment. He obviously took a knock and it was serious enough for him to come off, so we need to wait to the very end on that.

"He would be a big miss. The key thing for us, and it's probably worth reiterating, is that we have always been about the collective.

"The team is functioning very well and Scott has been a big part of that, and if he doesn't make it then we have really good players who can come in and will be hungry to help the team win the trophy."

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