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Brendan Rodgers ready to give fringe players chance to impress on European stage

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 12 Dec 2023

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Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has hinted he will hand some players Champions League auditions as they close an unsuccessful campaign against Feyenoord.

Celtic have one point from five games and a 2-0 defeat against Lazio last time out consigned them to bottom spot and the Dutch champions to third place in Group E.

Rodgers has handed rare starts to Tomoki Iwata, Mikey Johnston and Oh Hyeon-gyu in the past two domestic games and he will partly use Wednesday’s match to continue assessing his January transfer window needs.

Rodgers, who will again be without Cameron Carter-Vickers and Daizen Maeda, said: “Because of the situation we have with injuries and with all the games, it will give the opportunity for players to play.

“When we reach January, a lot of the players in the squad will have the opportunity to play games and play games through all the levels, and then can be assessed from there.

“But whatever team we put out, we are putting a team out always to win at Celtic. There’s no gifts, there’s no free games.

“Every game is to win and, even though disappointingly we won’t have anything in Europe after Christmas, we are still playing for pride here and the support. So we will have a team looking to fight for the result.

“It’s our last game here in the competition and we want to give the supporters something to go home happy with.

“Our attitude is exactly the same, to go and look to win the game. And we do that by playing our way. I think we showed at the weekend, once we divert from that, we don’t have the same qualities and it’s not our strength. Our strength is to play the way we want to play.”

Rodgers felt his side deviated from their positive passing game as they lost a half-time lead at Kilmarnock to suffer their first cinch Premiership defeat of the season.

“The value of the game at the weekend is we know what the issues were,” he said.

“In the St Johnstone game, the intensity wasn’t right and we fixed that. Sunday for us, when we analysed the game, we didn’t play with the poise that we need to play with in the second half.

“But at least we see that and we can take that learning into the game on Wednesday.”

Celtic have now gone 15 Champions League group games without victory, a run stretching back to Rodgers’ first spell in charge.

But the manager dismissed the long-term significance of getting a morale-boosting win ahead of next season’s European campaign.

“It’s still such a long way to go,” he said. “And probably, come this time next year, the squad may look a lot different again.

“We can only focus on the present and for us it’s performing to the level we know we can consistently.

“We have done that in spells over the course of this competition and played some really high-level football and showed in those moments that we belong at the level. But you have to do that consistently.”

Carter-Vickers and Maeda trained on Tuesday and Rodgers hopes they can return from recent lay-offs when his side host Hearts in the league on Saturday.

Reo Hatate was training on his own after returning from Japan following the first part of his rehabilitation from a hamstring injury.

The midfielder does not look likely to return before the winter break.

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