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Saturday 20 October 2018

Rodgers: 'Celtic a long way off Europa final'

Bhoys boss is focused on reunion with Rosenborg and targets 10 group points

BHOYS ARE BACK: Celtic’s Scott Sinclair and Rosenborg’s Vegar Hedenstad battle for the ball during their Champions League qualifying match last July. Both teams will renew rivalries in the Europa League on Thursday. Photo: PA
BHOYS ARE BACK: Celtic’s Scott Sinclair and Rosenborg’s Vegar Hedenstad battle for the ball during their Champions League qualifying match last July. Both teams will renew rivalries in the Europa League on Thursday. Photo: PA

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has warned that talk of making the Europa League final is completely premature.

The Scottish champions open their group campaign against Rosenborg in Glasgow on Thursday after dropping down from the Champions League.

After two years of facing up to some major challenges in Europe's elite competition, Celtic fans are eyeing a lengthy run in the lesser tournament. But Rodgers is not getting ahead of himself.

"I see lots of stories and reports about us getting to the final," he said. "That's a long, long, long way away.

"You only have to look at the teams and the calibre of club and financial resources in this competition and that tells you that is a long, long way away.

"However, it's the group stages and we have earned the right to be there and now we have to fight to show we can come out of the group stage."

The likes of Arsenal, AC Milan, Chelsea and Sevilla are also in the group stage and eight teams will drop down from the Champions League.

And Rodgers insists comparisons with Celtic's run to the UEFA Cup final in 2003 are difficult to make.

Ambition

"I just think in terms of where football was then, where it was for Celtic then, is totally different to where it's at now," said Rodgers, who has targeted a 10-point total from a group also featuring Salzburg and RB Leipzig.

"Celtic were taking players out of the top end of the Premier League. So that tells you where they were as a club in terms of finance and that sort of ambition really. Now we are not any less ambitious but of course the football economics have changed totally.

"It's a different team, a different era that we are in but we are no less ambitious and we look forward to working with the players we have here to gain hopefully another run of great experiences in Europe this season."

Difference

Celtic knocked Rosenborg out of the Champions League qualifiers this year and last year and Rodgers hopes for even better against the Norwegians.

"The difference here is we are a lot further ahead in terms of our fitness," he said.

"When we played them we have always been right at the beginning of our season. I would like to think, a period of time on, we will be a bit sharper. But it still means it will be a difficult game for us.

"We hope there will be a great crowd. I would love the stands to be full for this competition. Everyone wants the Champions League and that's where we want to be.

"However, this is still a very important competition for us and I would say to all the Celtic supporters to please come out and give us your great support, because it's absolutely vital for us and really they are the key factor in us doing well."

Meanwhile, Leigh Griffiths insists he was more than happy to sign a new deal with the Hoops, whom he joined from Wolves in 2014.

The 28-year-old said: "I am delighted to get it over and done with.

"It has been a long time coming and I was unfortunate not to cap it off with a goal.

"But it is done now and I can focus purely on my football."

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