Football/Soccer

Celtic boss reveals his Valencia links

Brendan Rodgers revealed Valencia helped school him in his early coaching career after Celtic were drawn against the Spanish side in the Europa League. Picture by Graham Stuart/PA
Ronnie Esplin

Brendan Rodgers revealed Valencia helped school him in his early coaching career after Celtic were drawn against the Spanish side in the Europa League.

The Hoops were paired with Marcelino Garcia Toral's side in the last 32 with the first game at Parkhead on February 14 and the return game at the Mestalla stadium a week later.

Speaking at Celtic's Lennoxtown training complex after the draw was made, the Carnlough man spoke of spending part of his football education at Valencia learning his trade.

"When I was a young coach they were one of the teams I travelled over to Spain to study," he said.

"They are one of the Spanish clubs who have this top-to-tail philosophy where the young players would come through from the base of the academy to the first team.

"They have a wonderful history of that. I have two close connections there with one of their former players who is a legend at the club, Juan Sol, who played alongside Vicente del Bosque

"I knew Juan from my time at Chelsea and I would travel back and forward with him and one of the guys who was also a former player there, Jose Luis Albiol, a former striker who was a scout.

"So it is a club I studied a lot when I was a young coach.

"The last time I was there was with Chelsea as part of the first-team staff, when we played a Champions League (group) game and won 2-1, Joe Cole and Didier Drogba scored.

"That was my last time at the Mestalla, a very famous stadium with a wonderful atmosphere.

"It is a game we will be excited by when it comes around."

Rodgers, however, stressed that getting past Valencia will be no easy task.

The Spanish side, who are sitting in 14th place in La Liga, finished behind Juventus and Manchester United in this season's Champions League section.

The former Liverpool boss said: "They are a very good side with some very good players.

"I watched them this season against Manchester United, I thought when they played at Old Trafford they played like a typical Spanish team, technically very good.

"It will be a tough test. We have the first game at home and we would like to bring some sort of advantage into the second leg."

Rodgers, however, also hopes Celtic will be in a "very strong position" when the first game comes around.

He admitted after the 2-0 defeat by Hibernian at Easter Road on Sunday that he will have to boost his attacking options after the substitution of Odsonne Edouard left the visitors with no recognised strikers on the pitch.

Rodgers said: "We will hopefully have the return of injured players by then and adding to the squad.

"So by the time the game comes in February we would like to think we would be in a really strong position.

"We know we need to strengthen and that is something we will look to do. Yesterday's result didn't confirm anything that we didn't know."

Rodgers revealed that attacker Ryan Christie carried from the field on a stretcher in last week's game against Salzburg, was back training although he will not be fit to face Motherwell in the Ladbrokes Premiership on Wednesday night

He said: "He was out running in the field today so that's good news.

"He won't be available for Motherwell but we will see where he is towards the weekend."

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