Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Celtic in good shape ahead of Champions League – Rodgers

SoccerNews in UEFA Champions League 10 Jul 2016

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Brendan Rodgers feels Celtic are in the best possible shape as they prepare for the start of their Champions League campaign against Lincoln Red Imps.

Celtic travel to Gibraltar for the away leg of their Champions League second qualifying round tie on Tuesday, eight days before the return match in Glasgow.

Rodgers’ new side have played four pre-season matches in Slovenia and Austria, drawing 2-2 against Celje before 1-0 and 2-1 wins over Sturm Graz and Olimpija respectively.

Celtic rounded off their preparation with a 0-0 draw away to Maribor on Saturday and the former Liverpool boss has been impressed with what he has seen given he has had just three weeks to get his squad ready.

“It’s been an excellent tour for us,” said Rodgers. “It’s only been 20 days since we have been together. I felt we left Lennoxtown, having worked well, and at the end of this 20-day period, we travel to our first European qualification game as a team.

“I have been overly pleased by the attitude of the players. There is still a long way to go before we are perfect but in terms of the attitude and what the players are trying to take on board, I have been delighted.

“It will be a tough game in Gibraltar but we are ready as we can be. We have piled as much work as we can into the last 20 days out here both on and off the pitch and we are ready as we can be for it.

“In terms of what I saw over the four games, we have only conceded one goal from open play over games, so our defensive organisation and our pressing has become very good. We will get better offensively as time goes on and we work together.”

On the draw with Maribor, Rodgers added: “Maribor, for five of the last six years have been Slovenian champions so it was really good exercise for us and the players coped and adapted really well in what were very hot conditions and the preparation for the game on Tuesday was perfect.

“They have qualified for the Champions League recently and ran Chelsea very close here. They are a good side and when they play at their own ground, they are very hard to beat. I thought our players were excellent.”

If Rodgers is to lead Celtic into the Champions League group stage for the first time in three years, the Lincoln tie will be the first of three that they must win.

 

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