Saturday 26 May 2018

'We can't be imp-atient'

Rodgers insists Celtic fans won't moan if his side fail to make early breakthrough against Gibraltarian minnows

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers will be hoping to build on their
weekend friendly win over Wolfsburg. Picture Credit: PA
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers will be hoping to build on their weekend friendly win over Wolfsburg. Picture Credit: PA
Callum McGregor scored his side’s first goal in a 2-1 win over Wolfsburg. Picture Credit: PA

Boss Brendan Rodgers is confident Celtic fans will have the patience that might be needed to get past Lincoln Red Imps in their Champions League qualifier at Parkhead tonight.

The Hoops are surprisingly trailing 1-0 to the part-timers after last week's shock defeat in the first leg of the second round in Gibraltar.

Rodgers expects Lincoln to pack their defence again and believes players and supporters may have to wait for a breakthrough.

However, he is confident that understanding in the stands will not be an issue.

The former Liverpool boss said: "The message to the players is similar to the supporters, it is that first 20 minutes if we don't score a goal then you have to be patient and for that you need the support.

"But thankfully, I understand the Celtic supporters, they understand the game, they know football and patience is something they have been accustomed to.

"You can be an attacking team but there are times when the ball can't go forward, it has to be circulated.

"Our team will always be set up to create and score goals but if it doesn't come the message is, they just have to be patient because you might take one hour or 70 minutes in any game before you break a team down and then you can score two, three, four, five goals in the last 20 minutes.

"So if the game is needing the patience then I am sure the Celtic supporters will support the team."

Rodgers revealed that defender Erik Sviatchenko "is fine" after being taken off with a head knock in the first half of the 2-1 friendly win against Wolfsburg on Saturday although midfielders Nir Bitton (hip flexor) and Stefan Johansen (ankle) are "probably unavailable" albeit both will be assessed.

Rodgers has been linked with Liverpool full-back Jon Flanagan and Blackburn defender Shane Duffy.

The Hoops boss would not comment on specific names but said: "There is a couple of players that we are looking at but we will see how that develops over the coming days."


Striker Leigh Griffiths, however, insists there is enough quality in the squad at the moment to get into the Champions League.

Griffiths has "no doubt" that the Scottish champions will get past Lincoln and he is confident of advancing through another two qualifying rounds and into the group stages.

He said: "The manager will still have players in mind that he wants to come in and add to the squad.

"But I've got no doubt in my mind that this group of players in the changing room will get us through to the Champions League group stages."

The Scotland international believes an early goal in front of what will be a huge crowd at Parkhead will put the Gibraltarian semi-professionals on the back foot.

He said: "It's just about being professional on the night. If we get that early goal then I think that will scare the other team and the crowd will get right behind us.

"The manager called for calmness after the first game. It's a two-legged tie and we know it's only half-time in the tie so we've got a great chance of going through with the full crowd behind us at Celtic Park.

"Obviously you don't want to get beat especially away from home but it happened. We need to move on and tomorrow is the perfect night to go and rectify the result and go through."

Griffiths, who scored 40 goals last season, was shunted wide on the right in Gibraltar to accommodate new signing Moussa Dembele but he insists he is still a "striker at heart".

The former Wolves player said: "I played that role a couple of times in pre-season and I enjoyed it.

"With Moussa up there it gives me a bit more freedom to go and express myself and get on the ball and try and make things happen like the gaffer said.


"But ultimately I'm still a striker at heart, I'm not a winger he knows that and that's why I'm still in the team. I can adapt to what formation he wants to play."

Meanwhile, Lincoln Red Imps assistant manager Mick McElwee expects the Gibraltarian part-timers to face an early onslaught against Celtic tonight.

At the Celtic Park press conference McElwee, a life-long fan of the Scottish champions, predicted a whirlwind opening from Brendan Rodgers' side.

He said: "There's going to be a number of factors that come into play while you try to achieve keeping a clean sheet for the first 20 minutes.

"That could be our philosophy.

"But that first 20 minutes is going to be like a storm, because the Celtic players are going to be looking for an early goal.

"It's not going to turn out the way we want it to turn out and it's not going to turn out the way Celtic want it to turn out, because both teams are going to be cancelling little bits of each other out as we go along.

"If we can sneak a goal, it makes life very difficult for Celtic but if they get an early goal, the game is on."

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