BRENDAN RODGERS acknowledges it is only going to get harder for Celtic to make an impact in Europe.

The Hoops boss picked through the debris of a poor performance against Zenit St Petersburg that saw the team ejected from the Europa League in Russia on Thursday night.

But, looking to the future, the Irishman saw some positives from a campaign that came to an abrupt halt against Roberto Mancini’s cash-rich outfit.

Rodgers said: “I looked at Moussa Dembele and thought he was a great reference, had great physicality in the game, he was a real handful for them.

“Olivier Ntcham was excellent in midfield, taking the ball. He had belief in what he was doing.

“Scott Brown is Browny, every game he plays he is top class. It’s important our younger players learn from that.”

With two extra qualification games to make the group stage of the Champions League next season, Rodgers said: “It gets tougher each year. I suppose it’s managing expectancy really.

“If any Scottish team qualifies for the Champions League that’s a big achievement.

“Then you look at Bayern Munich winning 5-0 against Besiktas this week. We’re normally in with two teams at least of that real quality in a group.

“So, qualification is a big achievement for a Scottish team and if you can then either get into European football after that, in the Champions League ideally or into the Europa League, you would hope you could make the steps.

“Against Zenit, we were much better than them last week, but our consistency wasn’t so good and so you end up going out.

“Year on year, you have to try to improve.

“But there is always going to be the balance, we’re always going to have young players, that’s where we’re at.

“It’s great to see them develop and flourish. We hope next year in Europe we can take more steps forward.

“We have to keep fighting.”

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