Martin O’Neill had Juventus, Gordon Strachan a Milan and Manchester United double while for Neil Lennon it was Barcelona. In their respective spells as Celtic manager that trio presided over Champions League giant-killing acts on epic evenings in Glasgow’s east end.
If it seems churlish to point towards what Brendan Rodgers lacks given his all‑conquering tenure, there has been no such marquee European moment. A 3-3 draw with Manchester City last season is the closest Celtic under him have come to inflicting a bloody nose on a member of football’s elite. The latest attempt will come against Bayern Munich on Tuesday’ with Rodgers adamant he does not necessarily require what others may regard as a defining result.
“I don’t need it,” Rodgers said in response to the suggestion that a win against Bayern would validate his work. “I think we all want it. We would love to have that but I have an inherent belief in what we do and hopefully we have seen that in 17 months what it can do for us as a club and as a team.
“It would be a great result and it gives you confidence but you have to do more than that, surely. It is good to get a result and good if you can perform well, and it is brilliant for the supporters, but you can’t become complacent enough to think that it does you for two or three years. You have the next game and the game after that and it doesn’t guarantee you anything. You need it to do well but it does not guarantee you anything going forward. Two or three years [of mileage]? No chance. Two or three games.”
Celtic would be eliminated from the Champions League if they lose against Bayern and Paris Saint-Germain see off Anderlecht, as expected. Yet from such a blue-chip group Europa League football after Christmas was always a legitimate goal for Rodgers.
“My job as the leader is to think of the bigger picture, what our goals are, and I am a realist,” he said. “Having worked with players at that [top] level, I know how they think, how they work and the difficulties of that. But it doesn’t take away our notion of what we want to try and do which is, as it was the minute I came in here, to get Celtic respect at the very top table.
“In last year’s competition we were able to do that and I think what we want to do is grow and develop that even more. I think it is all nice, the dreamy stuff of winning a game and feeding off it for a couple of years, but the reality is that you have got to strive to build something and that is about sustaining what we are doing.”
Bayern have arrived in Scotland without the injured Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller. The return of Jupp Heynckes as head coach, at the age of 72, has been justified with Bayern reaching the top of the table with a win over Leipzig on Saturday. Heynckes used Monday evening to dispute the claim by the Bayern chief executive, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, that Lewandowski would have featured against more meaningful opposition than Celtic. “Karl-Heinz was a world-class player and professional,” the coach said. “He has his own opinion. I have always protected my team. With Robert not 100% fit it would make no sense for him to play.”
It would be a surprise if Moussa Dembélé, who has been named in France’s provisional squad for the matches against Wales and Germany, is not preferred to Leigh Griffiths. “It’s just been a process with Moussa – dipping him in for 30 minutes, then a bit longer,” Rodgers said. “Then at Aberdeen last week he was absolutely outstanding. He is a fantastic player.”
Kieran Tierney signs new six-year contract
Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney has signed a new six-year contract. A number of Premier League clubs have been credited with interest in Tierney but the Scottish champions have announced he has committed himself to Parkhead until the summer of 2023.
The 20-year-old is closing in on 100 first-team appearances for his boyhood heroes. Tierney admitted he was “living the dream” after breaking through the youth ranks but he is still not taking his status for granted, especially after deputising for Brown recently.
“That’s probably the greatest honour I have ever had: to captain Celtic, walk out and do the team talk in the huddle,” he told Celtic TV. “It’s just unbelievable. I could never have imagined that and for the gaffer to have that trust in someone so young is very special for me.” PA
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