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Monday 11 December 2017

Complacency not an issue for Celts

‘Bhoys focused in Astana’ - Rodgers: Astana v Celtic Live BT Sport 2, KO 4.30pm

Brendan Rodgers insists his Celtic side are relaxed going into this afternoon’s Champions League clash with Astana. Photo: PA Wire
Brendan Rodgers insists his Celtic side are relaxed going into this afternoon’s Champions League clash with Astana. Photo: PA Wire

Boss Brendan Rodgers claims complacency is not an issue as Celtic prepare to defend their healthy 5-0 Champions League play-off lead in Astana today.

The Hoops took a huge step towards guaranteeing their place in the group stages for the second successive season under the Northern Irish boss following a first-leg thrashing of the Kazakhstan club at Parkhead last week.

Rodgers will assess Nir Bitton, who has had a protective boot over his foot injury over the last few days - but he is more certain about his side's ability to stay focused in the Astana Arena on Tuesday.

"In every single game we play we are always relaxed but focused and there is no change in this game," he said.

"We are never complacent, we never take anything for granted and that is a daily part of our life.

"When you play for a huge club like Celtic every day you have to prove yourself and in every game, so there is no question of being too complacent.

Relaxed

"My players will be relaxed but always with a focus.

"We worked very well in the first leg but we need to complete the job tomorrow. The first leg is gone, it's in the past.

"This is a game that you just can't just discard.

"We had a great result in the first game but we had to work very hard and it will be equally that tomorrow."

Since a 7-0 defeat against Barcelona at the Nou Camp in September 2016, the Scottish treble-winners have not lost on their European travels against Borussia Monchengladbach, Manchester City, Linfield and Rosenborg.

Moreover, the Scottish champions have not conceded in five European ties this season and Rodgers is keen to keep those records intact.

The former Swansea and Liverpool boss said: "We have a good record since the Barcelona game away from home in Europe so we are looking to add to that.

"We had a good performance against Monchengladbach, drew and should have won the game.

"Manchester City we had a good result and drew and against Rosenborg we won 1-0 so we are growing and developing at this level and we hope we can continue to do that tomorrow.

"So we think of it as 0-0. We are strong in every game we play and we always pick a team to get the best result we can.

"Thus far we haven't conceded a goal in the qualification phase...in our competitive games we have conceded one goal so far.

"It is a good effort by the players and it epitomises the organisation in the team.

"A lot of focus is on the creativity and style with which the team plays but we have a philosophy in terms of our defensive organisation which is also equal to our attacking idea.

"We take great pride in how we defend, how we press, the togetherness and cohesion in the team because it is all related.

"So all that means we concede few opportunities and then we can defend with the ball as well, our possession is at a higher level, we can defend better with the ball, have longer periods with the ball and in the opponents' half - and if all that equates to a clean sheet then I would be very, very happy."

Meanwhile, Astana boss Stanimir Stoilov is not expecting his side to perform a football miracle against Celtic.

Asked if he believed in the prospect of a something extraordinary occurring at the Astana Arena, Bulgarian Stoilov said: "I have to be realistic. Celtic are 99 per cent through to the group stages of the Champions League.

"Our chances are not so great but anything can happen.

"But to be realistic, Celtic will be going through.

"Celtic can get through the group stages but it depends on who the opponents are after that as to how far they can go."

When Stoilov was referred to Barcelona's remarkable comeback against Paris St German last season when they won 6-1 in the Nou Camp after losing the first game 4-0, he was no more optimistic.

He said: "Barcelona can do these kind of unreal things - we don't.

Motivation

"I think tomorrow will be a good match. We will do everything to win the game. We always play to win at home - we don't want to lose.

"The team is feeling really stressed after last week so we need to try to do much better. We made mistakes in the first game but there was five shots and five goals.

"The team has prepared very well and we will make it a good game."

Midfielder Ivan Maevski is simply hoping to give the Astana fans a home win to cheer.

"The game in Glasgow was not so good for us and of course it was a bad result," he said.

"Everyone wants to win by more than five goals but we have to be realistic. We have to win the match to make the fans happy, because they always support us.

"Celtic are a really good club but they beat us so badly because of the mistakes we made. But the game is in the past now so we have to concentrate on this one.

"But we need to make sure we don't go all out attack in all positions because Celtic are very good at using the spaces on the counter and punishing teams."

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