BRENDAN RODGERS insists he doesn’t “live in fantasy land”.
The Celtic manager witnessed his team being reduced to nine men as they got their Champions League campaign off to the worst possible start with a 2-0 loss against Feyenoord at a hostile De Kuip on Tuesday.
Two summer purchases from Swedish clubs – centre-back Gustaf Lagerbiekle, Elfsborg, and midfielder Odin Holm, Valerenga – were red-carded in the second-half as the encounter in Rotterdam turned sharply against the visitors.
A brutal injury list forced Rodgers to dip into his reserves with the likes of the team’s crucial central defender Cameron Cart-Vickers ruled out and back-up players such as Stephen Welsh and Liverpool loanee Nat Phillips also crocked while £4.3million buy from Legia Warsaw, Maik Nawrocki, couldn’t be considered for the squad because of a muscular problem.
CROCKED…Cameron Carter-Vickers’ influence was missed in Rotterdam.
There has been criticism of the club’s recruitment policy, but the Hoops gaffer refuses to accept that the opening-day failure in Group E that also consists of Lazio and Atletico Madrid is solely down to that one aspect.
Rodgers said: “It’s one of a number of things. It’s not just that. Quality helps.
“So, it’s a trait you need in any team, but it’s not going to take you to the next level. If you’re suffering in a game you need to dig deep, absolutely. But that’s something that comes with all good teams.
“We see that domestically, too. But, with the greatest respect, you can’t compare the levels. For us, there’s never any relaxation. We have to be full on at Champions League level to do anything. That’s the reality and the logic.
“If you understand football at all – and the finances and economics of football – you’ll see that. I understand when you’re working for such a historic club with a great history what that can mean. But, logically, there has to be a common sense element to it.
“I’m certainly not a fantasist. I like to dream, but I don’t live in fantasy land. I look at the opponents that play at this level and I know the economics of it.
“It doesn’t mean we’ll never fight or ever give up hope. But I have a common sense side, too, especially given the youthfulness of this squad and where it’s at.”
ENDGAME…Gustaf Lagerbiekle’s European debut for Celtic comes to an abrupt conclusion against Feyenoord with Callum McGregor dismayed.
With Lazio due at Parkhead a week on Wednesday and Atletico Madrid 21 days later, the Irishman was quizzed about the ability of the new Bhoys to stand up to the challenge among Europe’s elite.
Rodgers answered: “We shall see. That’s the challenge at this level.
“Being at home, the next two games are really important for us. We’re looking at players being up to speed. I don’t think there’s any doubt that at this level you need to have your best players available for us to have a chance.
“Tuesday night was another 60 minutes for Reo Hatate so him getting back up to speed helps us and we’ll see what else is available for us. But that’s always a challenge at this level. It’s about quality.”
The Japanese midfielder could start against Livingston in the 12.30pm kick-off at West Lothian tomorrow, but it’s unlikely any risks will be taken with Phillips on the home side’s notorious plastic pitch.
Rodgers, speaking to the Daily Record, added: “With Reo, I’ll get some information from the medics. He’s obviously recovering in his second day, but he looked fine.
“So, I think it’s important for him to get up to top speed and get minutes and game time. If he’s fit and available, that’s what’s important and we’ll see.
“With Nat, that’s something we’ll need to look at. He obviously came with a little issue around his knee and he’s been out for a long time, so these are the types of things that you have to balance.”
It’s more likely Lagerbiekle, who was most certainly unfortunate to receive a second yellow card against the Dutch, and Liam Scales will be the rearguard partners once again.
🍀 Switching back to Scottish Premiership
🍀 Phillips remains a doubt for Livingston
🍀 Carter-Vickers update
🍀 Emotional fall-out from CL defeat
🍀 Martindale reunion
We've been speaking to Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers ahead of Saturday's game vs Livi, live on Sky Sports 📺 pic.twitter.com/LPP8dMWzah
— Sky Sports Scotland (@ScotlandSky) September 21, 2023