celtic accept tough european challenge – brendan rodgers

15:00    16 Feb 2019

Valencia's Cristiano Piccini (left) and Celtic's Scott Sinclair battle for the ball during the UEFA Europa League
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers says his team will not shy away from the challenge of European club competition, despite the increasing gulf between the Scottish champions and the continent’s leading clubs.

The Glasgow club is facing an exit from the UEFA Europa League after being beaten 2-0 on their own turf in the first leg of a last 32 tie against Spanish side Valencia this past Thursday.

The Scottish Premiership leaders must now win in Spain next for the first time in their history to have any chance of advancing into the next round.

Rodgers, though, remains hopeful and is adamant that scoring an early goal at the Mestalla will change the complexion of the tie.

“It’s a huge challenge,” he said. “You only have to look at the quality of teams you meet at this level. But we accept the challenge.

“We’ve done great to get out our group with the teams that were there. Every game is a learning game for us.

“They (Valencia) are a good side in their own domestic league and at this level of competition. But we can be better, it’s as simple as that.”

Valencia manager Marcelino brought on his record €40 million summer signing Goncalo Guedes after his side went two ahead at Celtic Park on Thursday night.

Rodgers said: “It’s a different sport isn’t it? But we have to get on with it and just do our very, very best.

“It shows how a number of mistakes affect the momentum at that level. It was basic mistakes – passing the ball out under no pressure - and we had to try and respond.

“It can affect your belief and after a good 15 minutes we built the pressure on ourselves. It wasn’t the crowd – they were magnificent – we put it on ourselves.

“That’s when you need the personality to take the ball with one, two or three touches and ease your way up the park against a good team where there’s not a lot of space.

“They sat in tight and we had to try and work it rather than forcing it. If you move them across they still have the agility to get across and close the gaps.”

Meanwhile, Rodgers is confident that Celtic won’t be affected by the Valencia defeat in their Premiership game against Kilmarnock tomorrow and can win at Rugby Park and maintain their six point lead over Rangers.

“The beauty of this group is that they have always tried to be honest in their reflections on the game knowing there’s another game soon,” he said.

“We didn’t show our true face (against Valencia), but that’s how it goes. We now have to get ready for Sunday. We’ll look at how everyone is, but we’ll make a few changes just to re-energise the team.

“It’s tough with a game a couple of days later, but these boys have been magnificent over the last two and a half years with how they pick themselves up.

“It’s a credit to the guys and we won’t be feeling sorry for ourselves. We’ll re-focus and get back to how we usually play.”

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