THE WINTER BREAK and Celtic’s week in the sunshine of Dubai for the warm weather training could yet have a significant bearing on whether the Scottish champions can get past Valencia in the Europa League round of 32.
The La Liga side arrived in Glasgow complaining of exhaustion and minus at least three of their top players. Celtic on the other hand have been refreshed and reinvigorated by the break. Since starting playing again against Airdrie towards the end of last month, Celtic have been building up the confidence levels by winning game after game and have yet to concede a single goal in 2019. Valencia beware!
“We are at the best level we could be at in terms of the start we have made to the second part (of the season) and also to the level of our game,” Brendan Rodgers told the media today at his pre-match press conference.
“The intensity is at a really high level and irrespective of our opponents that is what we always try to achieve in the game, in terms of pressing the game and playing at a really high tempo and have that throughout the 90 minutes.
“So I don’t think the players could be in any better form coming into it.
“Yes, we have players missing through injury but we have had throughout the season and we just get on with it, do our work, do our preparation and we prepare to win every game.”
Valencia manager Marcelino complained at the weekend that his side were tired and their lack of energy may well be something that Rodgers can exploit. The pace of Oli Burke may be significant in this game, just as it was at the weekend in the Scottish Cup win over St Johnstone.
“Of course at this stage of the season you have been playing a lot of games. They will have that fatigue element at times.
“Look at the volume of games we have played and the intensity so you can have that fatigue but very quickly you get over that. When they walk into the stadium tomorrow night and they feel that atmosphere I am sure they will be as ready as us.
“But I understand where he is coming from because there is so much in the modern game in terms of what you are putting in, the recovery periods and then you are straight into another game. But they are an outstanding team and a team that will probably see themselves as one that can go far in the competition.
“They are not used to losing, they have only lost four games this season so the mentality is to win. They have drawn some games but they are a very good side, packed with technical players, with good physicality but that’s what you expect at this level.
“We will try to win the game but if we can keep a clean sheet of course that always helps. Yes, we want to make sure you are compact and defend well but if you concede a goal it doesn’t mean that you can’t win away from home, of course it makes it more difficult.
“We can’t be frightened if we conceded a goal because there is many ways you can concede. But the idea is to be really aggressive defensively, strong and compact as a team and obviously look to be as creative and attacking as we can.”
Watch the full press conference with the manager below..
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