BRENDAN RODGERS told his players to keep their cool in St Petersburg this evening as they attempt to complete the job they started so impressively last Thursday night at Celtic Park.
“It’s important you stay calm,” Brendan said. “In all of the qualification games we’ve played since I’ve been at Celtic it’s been important home or away to retain the emotion of the game.
“Everyone wants to qualify, everyone wants to go through. But you have to be able to play quality football and to do that you have to stay calm and retain your emotions, no matter how the game goes. Thankfully, when we’ve been in that situation we’ve dealt very, very well with it. Now we’re looking to do that again.
“It would be a huge achievement for us to go through. European football is notoriously very difficult for ourselves but I think we showed in the first leg how well we can play. We played a perfect game, really, in terms of how the players defended and attacked.
“We’d have liked to have got one or two more goals but our concentration and quality was at a really high level. We showed last week we can play with aggression, quality and intensity so it gives us a great opportunity.
“We know we need to replicate that. Zenit are a dominant, counter-attacking team. They have got plenty of quality. They may want to bring more initiative to their game but we have analysed the first-leg game and felt we played very, very well. We created opportunities and did not concede many. But there are still areas where we can be better.
“For us, our game stays the same — we like to play with aggression, with educated pressure on the ball. If we can press, great, if we can’t then we have to be super-compact. If we can do that, we’ll give ourselves a great opportunity,” the Celtic boss said.
“Our belief has always been there. Before the first leg I was just being a realist. Everyone would have probably expected Zenit to go through. What we showed in the first leg was that we’re going to make it really, really difficult for them.
“We wanted to make it really competitive but probably they were surprised by the quality of our football. What we have shown is that when we play to our quality and to the top of our level then we can match any team.
“We have a real respect for the Zenit team as a whole. I am a big admirer of Branislav Ivanovic. I worked with him at Chelsea and he’s had a brilliant career. He’s still a top professional so if he comes back into the team he’ll make them much stronger.
“But I think the individual quality they have in the front area of the team makes them a threat to us. Leandro Perades, in the centre of midfield, the former Roma player, is an outstanding talent. But they have lots of talents.
“We respect their game and respect how they play. But when we go on to the football field we have to show our true face and qualities.
“It makes for a really good game. The pitch will be very nice and I’m looking forward to seeing their new stadium. The last time I was here with Liverpool, we played in a different stadium,” concluded Rodgers.
Also on The Celtic Star today…
‘Get in their faces, Bhoys!’ roars Lisbon Lion Jim Craig…read HERE
Beware card happy referee, Zenit will worry all night about conceding an away goal to Celtic…read HERE
Broony, arrives in sub zero St Petersburg wearing his t-shirt, says the heat is on Zenit..read HERE
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Podcast Preview and Review. Yeah, some spoken word about the game below and also an interview with Megan from the Celtic Fc Foundation.