15 Feb Winter break could make Zenit fresher, says Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers
Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers does not believe Zenit St Petersburg’s long winter break necessarily gives them an advantage in Thursday night’s Europa League clash.
The Russian side have not played a competitive game for over two months due to the winter break but have squeezed in friendlies against Slovan Bratislava, Red Star Belgrade and Maribor during a warm-weather camp in Turkey before flying to Glasgow.
And Rodgers is not expecting Roberto Mancini’s men to be showing signs of ring-rust.
The Northern Irishman said: “You can look at it the other way and say that they could be fresher.
“They have been off for a period of time but they have been working and playing a number of games.
“So maybe the break will allow them to be a little bit more fresher. We obviously have it at the beginning of the season.
“It depends what your narrative is on it.”
Rodgers is looking for an enthusiastic Hoops support giving them a helping hand ahead of the return game in Russia next week.
The former Swansea City and Liverpool boss said: “Having witnessed it over the last couple of seasons the support we get is incredible.”
“As the manager stood there, the noise level is phenomenal.
“I have spoken to opposition players in the last couple of years and they have never heard a noise like it.
“We have to give the supporters something to get behind.”
Celtic are dropping down to Uefa’s secondary competition after a tough Champions League campaign which saw them thumped by Paris St-Germain and Bayern Munich.
But they will not have it any easier against the Russian outfit who cantered through their Europa League group undefeated with five wins out of six.
While Zenit are the tournament’s top scorers with 17 goals, Celtic will need to put on a far more resolute display than they managed in their Champions League group section having conceded 18 goals in just six matches – including a dozen to PSG alone.
However, Mancini is refusing to look too closely at those painful results against two of Europe’s biggest superpowers.
The Italian – who is refusing to rule former Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic out of Thursday’s clash – said: “It is always a difficult game in Glasgow. Celtic at home are a very tough team.
“The supporters always push the team. It is incredible.
“Celtic played in a difficult group. I think most teams would lose to PSG and Bayern. It was a tough group and they will be better in the Europa League.
“We can have a problem as it is the first game after a two-month break. That is the situation and we need to be at our best to reach the next round.
“If we are able to win this game that would be a good result – but I don’t think Brendan would agree with me.
“It is important to try to be offensive and try to score.”