BRENDAN RODGERS insists his written-off Celts will be fearless when they commence their Champions League campaign against Feyenoord in Rotterdam on Tuesday night.
The Hoops have already been branded as no-hopers by big-mouthed, dimwitted Dutch pundits as they prepare for their assault on Group E of Europe’s elite competition.
Rodgers isn’t paying too much attention to the drivel being spouted elsewhere and says: “Can we surprise them? I would think so. I haven’t seen the comments, but we will always be underdogs for some.
“Obviously, we are a huge club with tremendous history, but people who don’t know that will just see it as a pot four team from a smaller country.
THE WAY AHEAD…Brendan Rodgers sends some instructions to his players.
“That’s the beauty of it. That could be the surprise element we bring to games. People might not expect us to be as good as we can be. We’ll go into every game with the mentality to fight, to be competitive and organised, and play to the level we want to.
“We will certainly go in with no fear.”
Injuries to three central defenders – Cameron Carter-Vickers, Maik Nawrocki and Stephen Welsh – plus the latest blow to winger Liel Abada will not strengthen the Hoops’ cause, but Rodgers has been working on ways of best utilising the skills of Liverpool loanee Nat Phillips in the rearguard alongside Gustaf Lagerbiekle and Liam Scales.
The Irishman is not showing signs of pushing frantically on panic buttons and is basing his belief on the professionalism and qualities of the performers he has at his disposal.
Rodgers, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “The glue that keeps us together is personality and togetherness. What we are bringing is the strength of the team.
TURF LUCK…Brendan Rodgers reacts to an incident on the pitch.
“Even though there are players missing, the ones coming in will understand what they need to do. That togetherness can really help. It’s a very tough level to go in and compete, but it’s a brilliant challenge.
”We are looking forward to it. We are taking on the best teams in Europe and that’s a great challenge from a players and coaching perspective.
“It’s always exciting. We want to make sure we are as competitive as we can be. This game is all about levels and we are going up a few notches.”
Rodgers, who is preparing his squad for the visit of Dundee on Premiership business this afternoon, added: “That is the challenge in itself. Everything is that bit quicker, faster, teams are technically very strong. It’s a real test. But that is what you want.
“That is why the players worked so hard last season to win the league, because they knew they could qualify straight into this competition.
“It’s the best competition to be in. There will no doubt be challenges – and difficulties – along the way, but we will do everything we can to overcome them.”