Football/Soccer

Celtic in a good place ahead of Valencia's Europa League visit says Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers believes his Celtic team is in good shape as Valencia travel to Glasgow for the first leg of their Europa League knock-out clash
By Ronnie Esplin, Press Association Sport

Uefa Europa League round of 32, first leg: Celtic v Valencia (Thursday, 8pm, live on BT Sport 3)

BOSS Brendan Rodgers insists Celtic are at the "best level they could be" going into the first-leg of the Europa League last-32 against Valencia at Parkhead on Thursday night.

The Hoops are six points clear of Old Firm rivals Rangers at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership and have won all seven games since the turn of the year, scoring 21 goals and conceding none.

Indeed, the Scottish champions have not lost a goal at home since a 2-1 win over Salzburg at Parkhead on December 13, all of which is encouraging the Carnlough man.

He said: "We are at the best level we could be at in terms of the start we have made to the second part (of the season) and also to the level of our game.

"The intensity is at a really high level and irrespective of our opponents that is what we always try to achieve in the game, in terms of pressing the game and playing at a really high tempo and have that throughout the 90 minutes.

"So I don't think the players could be in any better form coming into it.

"Yes, we have players missing through injury but we have had throughout the season and we just get on with it, do our work, do our preparation and we prepare to win every game."

Valencia are in eighth place in La Liga at the moment, 20 points behind leaders Barcelona.

Boss Marceloni has been quoted as saying his squad is "tired" but Rodgers will not read too much into that claim.

The former Liverpool boss said: "Of course at this stage of the season you have been playing a lot of games. They will have that fatigue element at times.

"Look at the volume of games we have played and the intensity so you can have that fatigue but very quickly you get over that.

"When they walk into the stadium tomorrow night and they feel that atmosphere I am sure they will be as ready as us..

"But I understand where he is coming from because there is so much in the modern game in terms of what you are putting in, the recovery periods and then you are straight into another game.

"But they are an outstanding team and a team that will probably see themselves as one that can go far in the competition.

"They are not used to losing, they have only lost four (league) games this season so the mentality is to win.

"They have drawn some games but they are a very good side, packed with technical players, with good physicality but that's what you expect at this level."

While acknowledging the importance of a clean sheet, Rodgers insists his side should not be afraid if they concede to the Spanish side.

He said: "We will try to win the game but if we can keep a clean sheet of course that always helps.

"Yes, we want to make sure you are compact and defend well but if you concede a goal it doesn't mean that you can't win away from home, of course it makes it more difficult.

"We can't be frightened if we conceded a goal because there is many ways you can concede.

"But the idea is to be really aggressive defensively, strong and compact as a team and obviously look to be as creative and attacking as we can."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Football/Soccer

Today's horoscope

Horoscope


See a different horoscope: