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BRENDAN BACKS ‘BLISTERING’ BURKE

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BRENDAN RODGERS is convinced the blistering pace and power of Oliver Burke will terrify Valencia in the first leg of their Europa League knock-out double-header at Parkhead on Thursday night.

The on-loan West Brom attacker shredded St Johnstone’s defence as he helped Celtic to a landslide 5-0 triumph in the Scottish Cup-tie in the east end of Glasgow yesterday.

Burke was unstoppable before he limped off in the 67th minute to be replaced by Timothy Weah.

However, the Hoops boss is confident the flying machine will be fit in time for the meeting with the Spanish cracks.

SPEED MERCHANT…Oliver Burke celebrates after a strike against St Mirren. Pic: Geo.

Rodgers said: “Oli took a knock to his ankle, but we hope he’ll be okay for Thursday. You see his intensity and the threat he gives us. He was absolutely fantastic.

“Oli has shown and started to progress as we thought he could. He has wonderful attributes and his pressing sets a real tone.

“He’ll be difficult to play against because the one thing that frightens defenders is pace.

“The speed he showed for Scott Sinclair first goal and the second one in behind is frightening, really.

“It’s a joy to watch a Scottish player with that physicality and quality. There are things that he continues to work on, but he’s doing exceptionally well and he has to
keep improving.”

Rodgers was delighted with the pulverising performance from his players in the rout of the Saints, the fifth time they have beaten the Perth outfit in this campaign while scoring 16 goals and conceding none.

Scott Sinclair fired in a hat-trick, James Forrest added his sixth against the Saints this term and there was the rare sight of Scott Brown sending a screamer high into the net for his first strike in two years.

Rodgers added: “It was another good performance, we didn’t give away too much. We know it’s a big step up in terms of quality on Thursday night.

“But I can’t complain. We are nearly into mid-February, we haven’t conceded and the players are working very hard. They look fresh and are playing at a really good level. So today was good preparation.”

Celtic’s win set a new record of 24 domestic Cup wins in succession and Rodgers admitted his satisfaction with another entry in to the history books.

He added: “We had won the four previous games and it was going to be the game that would show their mentality and character.

“Because if they didn’t work and aren’t focused and aren’t hungry then it can be a really, really difficult game. But they showed their mentality and quality and I said to them after the game that they’d broken another record.

“I didn’t want to mention before because they didn’t need it. There are enough demands from me to win.

“The consequence of it is they broke a record and it’s another great tribute to how they’ve been working for the last two-and-a-half years now.”

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