BRANISLAV IVANOVIC knows all about the ability of Brendan Rodgers as a coach. The Zenit St Petersburg’s Serbian defender is hoping to be given the all clear to face Celtic on Thursday night but he faces a race against the clock as ehe recovers from an troubling eye injury.
Ivanovic arrived in the UK at Chelsea a decade or so ago and his first coach was the Irishman who will be plotting his side’s downfall in Thursday’s Europa League showdown.
The Serb enjoyed a hugely successful spell at Stamford Bridge where he won nine major honours and he is looking to add Europa League glory this season to his impressive career stats. The big defender remembers working with Rodgers fondly.
“I actually made my debut for Chelsea with Brendan as my coach,” he said.
“He was reserve team manager at the time and he picked me for my first game at the club.
“I was really impressed with him straight away. When I first encountered Brendan, he was something new for me.
“He was completely different to what I’d seen before in football.
“Brendan was so precise with everything.
“He went through every movement you made and was very focused on every single situation during a game.
“Even then, I was so impressed with his work.
“After he left Stamford Bridge, he’s gone on to build a big career for himself and be at some really great clubs like Liverpool and Celtic.
“He’s a very good manager and so passionate about the game.
“He takes care of everything for the players, he understands football.
“And he can build teams because he always gives young players a chance. That’s why I respect him.
“So, I know all about Brendan as a coach. I know some of Celtic’s players having crossed paths with them before.
“And I know the passion they play with, especially at home.
“For Zenit, this will be a big challenge.
“The Celtic game will give us a real indication of where we are in Europe at the moment.”