BOSS HAILS PLAYERS’ PHYSICAL AND MENTAL FITNESS

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CELTIC boss Brendan Rodgers believes his players are at a superior fitness level than they have been in the previous two years.

And the Hoops gaffer is delighted with the way his troops hit the ground running in their 3-0 victory over Alashkert in the Champions League opener in Armenia on Tuesday.

Rodgers said: “I could tell in the first five minutes of the game that that team were a step up from any of the opening games I had been involved in since I came here.

“It was just in terms of the speed of their game, the intensity with which they tried to press early on and the conditions. It was always going to be a difficult game for us.

“So, it was really a mark of where our players are at in terms of their mentality and fitness. We withstood that. Our preparation has been to try and fast-track them into 90 minutes.

“When we were away, we played two 90 minutes and I think that really helped the players especially in the heat of Austria.

“To score a couple of goals late on is always a good sign of a team’s mental and physical fitness. So, yes, it was a very good result for us and performance at this stage of the season.

“We’ll never be perfect, but it gives us a nice advantage coming to play at home.”

It was anticipated Rodgers’ men would face Rosenborg in the next round, but there was a shock for the Norwegians when they lost 1-0 to the part-timers of Valur in Iceland on Wednesday.

The Irishman added: “It just shows you. Everyone is probably looking at Rosenborg as being the favourites, but it’s a real treacherous period to be playing your games.

“Rosenborg are obviously in season, as well. We’ll see how that evolves and whoever we play, if we get through, we’ll meet the challenge.”

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