27 Sep Celtic need their ‘A’ game for City
Brendan Rodgers is under no illusions as to the task his Celtic side face when Manchester City visit Parkhead on Wednesday night.
The Hoops were thrashed 7-0 by Barcelona in their Champions League Group C opener in the Nou Camp and match day two brings Pep Guardiola’s in-form side who have won their first 10 games in all competitions this season.
Rodgers, who confirmed that Craig Gordon would take over in goal from Dorus de Vries who is still not 100 per cent after having to go off at half-time in the 6-1 win over Kilmarnock at the weekend, is excited about taking on the Premier League leaders.
However, he knows his players will need to work hard to reduce the disparity between the two sides.
“It is really exciting,” said the former Swansea and Liverpool boss.
“But Man City are a top team, everyone can see that clearly, they have that world-class ability, great individuals who are working hard.
“We know we have to bring our A game to have any chance and that is something hopefully we can do.
“The reality is if they bring their A game and we bring ours, they win.
“But we know we have to make it as uncomfortable as we can for them.
“As a coach and players these are the types of occasions and games that you look forward to and we look forward to it.
“We have a respect for their qualities and their game but we have to ensure we are super-committed into our way of working and we know we have players that can give them a problem.
“I have watched them in the last four or five seasons and they have always had an outstanding group of players, winning leagues and cups.
“But the level of play has gone up since Pep has come in.
“The intensity has gone up and they are a team working with one idea and they are a hard team to contain.
“We know it is going to be a difficult night but we know it is going to be a difficult night for them.”
Rodgers is hoping Raheem Sterling, who has rediscovered his form since Guardiola arrived in the summer, has an off night.
The Northern Irishman gave the winger his debut at Liverpool at the age of 17 and Sterling went on to move to City in 2015 for a deal reportedly worth £49million.
“I have been so proud to watch him this season to the level that he has been at,” said Rodgers. “I am absolutely delighted for him.
“He was a great boy to work with. I think back to the time he was a young kid at Liverpool and to see him grow from that 17-year-old who made his first start, funny enough, against Manchester City at Anfield, not only as a player but as a person over three seasons.
“It was dificult the first season he left, it always is when you have so much expectation on you.
“You leave Liverpool for £49 million and you are expected to perform right away and you have to remember he is a boy, he is 21-years of age.
“But he has really shown that with a focus, a way of working and a way of playing, he is a top-class player.
“For a season or so he drifted, maybe not so much to do with him.
“I think he needs to be in a clear structure, a clear way of playing and working and when he is, then he is one of the world’s leading young talents; super-fast, dynamic, great in one versus one, very strong.
“I always look out for players that I have worked with and hope they do well, none more so than him because he was absolutely brilliant for me.
“So I am looking forward to seeing him – hopefully he doesn’t play so well – but at this moment in time he is in great form.”
Asked how he could be stopped, Rodgers replied: “You can’t kick him that’s for sure, because he is very strong, one of the strongest young guys you will come across, although he maybe doesn’t look it.
“He gets a wee bit of stick when he travels to games still which I don’t understand why. He is a great boy as well.
“He always wanted to train every day. He never had a lazy day, wanted to improve, wanted to get better and gave his all for Liverpool when I was there so it is great to see him do so well and Pep knows he has got a big talent.”
Rodgers explained why Gordon was given the nod in goal.
He said: “Craig Gordon will start tomorrow. I pick the team to come in and play. Dorus isn’t 100 per cent.
“Dorus trained yesterday and trained today. He is still a bit sore but he is fine.
“There is no need to take any risk in a game like this when I have an outstanding goalkeeper beside him so Craig will play.”