Brendan Rodgers is “really looking forward” to stepping up Celtic’s pre-season preparations in Japan after ending “a fantastic week” in Portugal with a 4-1 friendly win over Portimonense on Saturday.
The recently-appointed Hoops boss has enjoyed running the rule over his team at their warm-weather training camp in the Algarve over the past week.
And Rodgers, whose side kick off their cinch Premiership title defence at home to Ross County on August 5, is excited about seeing Celtic continue the build-up to the new campaign on their Japanese tour, with matches against J-League sides Yokohama F.Marinos on Wednesday and Gamba Osaka next Saturday.
“It is a tough schedule over the two weeks, here in the heat (in Portugal) and it will be similar heat in Japan, with the humidity,” Rodgers told Celtic’s website on Saturday.
“Obviously the teams we’re playing out there are already halfway through their season, so it will be a step-up again in challenge for us, but that’s what we want.
“We need that challenge at this time of the season to improve our fitness level. We’ll get back today (Saturday), recover tonight and then we’re away tomorrow, and I’m really looking forward to Japan.”
Rodgers was pleased with the way Celtic performed as Reo Hatate, Liel Abada, Ben Summers and Oh Hyeon-gyu scored in a behind-closed doors win over Portuguese top-flight side Portimonense.
“We’ve had a fantastic week, so to finish off with a decent performance and a good result for the guys, even though that is not the most important thing at this stage, I was really pleased,”
“Obviously the heat’s been sweltering here but in terms of the intensity and some of the football was very good. There’s still a long way to go but I’m really pleased.
“You can see with some of the goals we scored, our pressing high up the pitch and looking to win it, and then we took our chances. It was a really good run-out.
“For some of the guys, the international guys, it was their first bit of game-time but overall it’s been a really good week.
“It’s been a tough week for the players and the staff, because there’s been no real time in the schedule for much, but they’ve worked really well in this first part of the tour which was really pleasing.”
Left-back Greg Taylor, who played 45 minutes against Portimonense, knows the value of an intensive pre-season for a Celtic side who will be competing in the Champions League while also trying to defend all three domestic trophies in the campaign ahead.
“We’re a team that wants to score goals, that hasn’t changed, and we’re also a team that wants to try and keep clean sheets, so we’ll be building that in pre-season, but right now it’s all about getting the work in more than results,” he said.
“Getting a full pre-season under your belt, there’s nothing more important for a footballer.
“We’ll have a long, hard season with lots of games, and games – you saw it last season – pushing right to the last minute and getting important goals.
“All that work’s done in pre-season because you’re building your fitness for the long hard slog ahead.
“Every single player has tried to impress and have given their all, and I hope we continue that into Japan because there’s more hard work there to come.”