Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers spoke to the media yesterday afternoon after the Celtic party arrived in Rome for this evening’s must win Champions League encounter with our old friends Societa Sportiva Lazio. Here’s what Brendan had to say…
Q: It’s a big match how much are you and the players looking forward to it?
Brendan Rodgers: “Very much so we are under no illusions what we need to do in the game. It’s pretty straightforward we have to win the game.”
Q: It was a vital game between the two sides at Celtic Park, what did you learn in that match that you can take into this one?
Brendan Rodgers: “I think we learned that over the course of the competition against Lazio and other teams when we are 11 v 11, we can really compete on the field. The learning at the end of the game was that you have to concentrate right through to the very end.
“We looked like the team that was going to win the first leg and we ended up losing the game. That was a big disappointment considering how well we had played and taken the lead. What’s important for us is making sure we have 11 men on the field. In our two away games we have been down to nine men and 10 men and at this level that is a big ask. For us it is about keeping all of our players on the field playing the level of football that we know we can and have shown and hopefully getting the breaks in the game.”
Q: What can be learned from this Champions League campaign?
Brendan Rodgers: “The two standouts for me are the experience the players will gain from playing against players at this level. Players that have been consistently at this level. That is always important when you come to play against top level players it is really about the concentration for the full 90 plus minutes in the game.
“It might well be obvious, but it is also about quality as well at the top end of the field. All the teams have forward players that can really hurt you and that can make the difference. You don’t get the number of chances that you might do domestically so you might have to be clinical. Quality and experience is what improves you as an individual and as a team at this level.”
Q: How important is it for the club to get a win from the last two games in terms of prestige and in terms of the competitive nature of the Champions League group stage?
Brendan Rodgers: “I think it is for or own personal pride as a team. Clearly as a club that’s what we want to do. We know the challenges that we have at this level. I also think that the points total does not reflect the performance levels that we have had. We have two games left now and we know what we need to do. We are going to give it everything to achieve the victories that we need.”
Q: How do you think Lazio doing right now and what is your personal opinion of Maurizio Sarri?
Brendan Rodgers: “Firstly, Maurizio is a very experienced coach. He did incredible work at Napoli and then came to Chelsea and produced a very good football team. He has come back to Italy, and he is a very experienced coach and a very talented coach who asks his players to play in a really attacking philosophy.
“They play 4-3-3 and the midfield are flexible. Luis Alberto whom I know very well is a really gifted player technically and he now has experience from when I knew him as a 20-year-old at Liverpool. They have front players and wingers and strikers who can score goals. They will be disappointed that they lost the league game at the weekend. They haven’t won in three games, but they have talent and they have shown that in this competition.”
Q: After the game against Feyenoord, somebody mentioned the high level of intensity from the supporters inside the stadium, are you concerned that this is a factor that could count against you?
Brendan Rodgers: “No. It is where you play football. You play football to play in the best stadiums and the best atmospheres. When I was here before the atmosphere was amazing and I expect it to be the same. It is a really iconic stadium, and you always expect the supporters to get behind the home team.
“If you come to Glasgow, you will see how Celtic support us. For us, I always say the louder the opposing supporters cheer, the harder we run. Hopefully, we can run very hard.”
Q: This is the most difficult moment in Lazio’s season could this be an advantage?
Brendan Rodgers: “I think as professional footballers you always want to look to the next game. It is a different competition, and you are not in the league. You come into the next game, and you want to perform.
“The Champions League is a fantastic competition to come and play in. However, you are doing in the league, you feel that change when you come to the Champions League. No matter how Lazio are doing domestically we expect a really tough game. We are prepared for a tough game.”
Q: You’ve talked about being competitive in this competition and not getting the results to match that aside from keeping 11 players on the pitch, what else has to be different?
Brendan Rodgers: “I think we have to take our opportunities. I also think there are key and decisive moments in the game. You think of the first half away in Feyenoord we started the game well. We had opportunities that we didn’t take that would have put us in front. We conceded right in half time.
“The Lazio game at home with that little bit of concentration where if you are not going to win the game then certainly don’t lose it. That was points that we had given away in that game. The key for us is making sure we have 11 players on the field and when we have shown that in all of the games, we have been good, and we have been competitive.
“That’s the challenge for us at this level. At the top end of the pitch, it is all about the quality and dealing with it as a team collectively. I’m excited by it and I am really looking forward to seeing us play and I think we can get the result that we want. We know we will have to work very hard.”