Celtic target extended run before Feyenoord test

Published on: 18 September 2023

Champions League: Feyenoord v CelticVenue: De Kuip, Rotterdam Date: Tuesday, 19 September Kick-off: 20:00 BSTCoverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland Extra/DAB/810MW, live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app

Brendan Rodgers believes "anything is possible" as his side embark on another Champions League campaign but concedes the team are "not at peak Celtic" yet.

Celtic return to the Champions League group stages for the second successive season, opening away to top seeds Feyenoord in Rotterdam on Tuesday, looking to build on positive performances last term that ultimately resulted in two draws from six games.

"We've got a long way to go before I think we'll be where I'm happy, where I want us to be," said Rodgers.

Despite that, he insists his squad have shown already this season that their "spirit will never be broken", adding that they have to have that at this level where people "want to dismiss you in the tournament".

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The former Liverpool and Leicester City manager reiterated that his side will look to be competitive in every game as they seek his target of being in Europe after Christmas.

"That's what our aim is," he explained. "Whatever competition that is in, as long as we're in Europe after Christmas, that is our aim."

Celtic picked up three points in both of the campaigns Rodgers had during his first spell with Celtic.

"It's very difficult," he responded when asked what Celtic supporters should expect in terms of results.

"You're talking over the last 20 odd years or so the game has evolved so much and the challenges are there to see. You see the levels of teams, you see the levels of players. For us what we can promise is that we'll fight in every single game.

"We want to compete, we want to be competitive and that is all I can promise. I can promise no more than that. If we can produce that level of work ethic and the quality that we do have, then I think we can cause teams problems. That will be our aim.

"We know there's times we're going to be under pressure, especially away from home. We want to give Feyenoord a problem when we have the ball as well."

Team news

Nat Phillips rolled his ankle at the weekend with Rodgers non-committal on his fitness. Fellow defenders Cameron Carter-Vickers, Maik Nawrocki, Stephen Welsh and Yuki Kobayashi and wingers Liel Abada and Marco Tilio are out.

What they said

Feyenoord head coach Arne Slot: "I admire them as a team, first of all because they play football, which I like to see. They did so last season as well under the former coach.

"Brendan Rodgers did a very good job at Leicester City, reached the semi-finals of the Conference League with football everybody enjoys watching. It was a joy to watch Celtic last season.

"We will defend [Kyogo Furuhashi] the best way we can. We will inform our defenders of his qualities and not his injury."

Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart: "It's an amazing competition. One that you grow up watching, you grow up enjoying. I can only talk from being a young guy watching the Champions League being excited with the music, that doesn't change. I'm still that kid, I'm still a human being as we all are, I'm sure it's the same for a fan.

"They're special nights, the football seems to change, the speed of the game is electric and the hype is real. It definitely lives up to it, the competition every year, there's amazing football being played.

"It means everything. I feel like I should be here, I love being here, love being part of the team that I'm a part of and can't wait to hopefully take it on tomorrow night."

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      Tuesday will be Feyenoord and Celtic's first competitive meeting since the Dutch side triumphed in their 1970 European Cup final meeting.Celtic have faced Dutch opposition on 17 occasions in European competition, winning eight times.Celtic's last games against a team from the Netherlands came in a 2021 Europa League play-off tie, which they won 3-2 on aggregate.Feyenoord, like Celtic, enter the Champions League at the group stage as domestic champions.The Rotterdam side won one and lost five of their games in their last Champions League group stage campaign in 2017.Last term, Feyenoord reached the Europa League quarter-finals.

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    Source: bbc.com