Celtic boss preparations hampered

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers admits their preparation for Friday’s game at Kilmarnock has been “far from ideal” but he has urged his 14 international players to quickly shift their focus back to club duties.

Rodgers has some difficult decisions to make for the Rugby Park contest, especially with Australia midfielder Tom Rogic and Honduras left-back Emilio Izaguirre returning to Lennoxtown for just one day’s training before the Ladbrokes Premiership encounter.

“It’s something that isn’t ideal,” Rodgers said. “We had 14 players away over this break, over 50 per cent of your squad are away.

“I would assume we have the most international players away yet we are the team who are playing on the Friday, which obviously means I will have to have a look at the team in terms of the set-up and the fitness of the players.

“So it’s not ideal preparation. They never usually are on the back of an international break, but certainly if we had an extra day, that would have benefited us greatly.”

Rodgers, however, stressed he was not complaining and pointed to the example of Moussa Dembele, who hit a double for France Under-21s in their 3-2 victory over England Under-21s.

“I’m always happy for the players to go away internationally and play,” Rodgers said. “I always say to them to focus on doing their best for their country and it sometimes keeps them ticking over in terms of minutes. And Moussa for example has scored two goals and is coming back full of confidence.

“I watched the game and he was outstanding. He could arguably have had three or four.

“It’s important for them to go away and represent their national team and do well and then focus on doing well on Celtic.

“For the players that had the opportunity to recover, it was very beneficial for them. But at the same time they have worked hard on aspects of their game that individually we feel they can improve on and they are now getting ready for the next batch of games.”

Two players returned earlier than expected – Cristian Gamboa missed Costa Rica’s second game through suspension after picking up a yellow card while Israeli midfielder Nir Bitton was sent home after a tactical disagreement with national coach Elisha Levy, although he has now been forgiven.

Rodgers said: “It’s nothing to do with me, that was something between him and his coach. I have never had any problem with Nir, he is an excellent professional.

“When I asked him to come back early in pre-season, he was one of the first ones back. He was due to have a longer rest period but when I was appointed here and asked them to come back he came back virtually straight away, and I have never had one issue with him.

“He’s a very important member of our squad. I spoke to him about the issue, he has his opinion on it but for me the focus is very much on Celtic and getting back to working here.”

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