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RODGERS LAYS IT ON THE LINE

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BRENDAN RODGERS will send out his Celtic players to face AEK Athens at Parkhead on Wednesday with the message: “Let’s settle this tie tonight!”

The Hoops boss acknowledges an encounter in front of 60,000 frenzied Greek fans in the Olympic Stadium a week on Tuesday could create problems during the second leg of the third round Champions League qualifier.

Rodgers said: “Lots of people would say ‘first leg away and second leg at home’, but you can win the tie in the first leg.

“So, it’s very important that wherever we play, home or away, we are really aggressive and get that momentum.

“Over the last couple of years, we have won a lot of ties in the first leg.

“What’s also been evident is the supporters’ appreciation of where the team is at. I remember when I first came in against Astana there was a different sort of feel.

“We went 1-0 behind against Rosenborg, but there’s a confidence now that: ‘Okay we’ve conceded, but we have enough here to get something from the game’.

“And that’s because the players have shown that.”

Scottish teams have traditionally struggled against Scandinavian sides at this time of year, but the Parkhead men looked strong in the 3-1 aggregate win over Rosenborg in the previous round.

Rodgers’ side should hold an advantage over AEK, who will be playing their first competitive game of the season under new management.

Manolo Jimenez led the club to the title, but the Spaniard quit after failing to negotiate a contract extension and was replaced by ex-Panathinaikos coach Marinos Ouzounidis.

The Irishman added: “Rosenborg were well into their season, so fitness-wise that was an advantage, no doubt. It’s certainly not an easy task, but you have to find a way and so far we are finding ways.

“The second, third and fourth-round ties could all be the same level in difficulty, so we’ll prepare for another tough game.”

Rodgers has never managed against Greek opposition, but believes his players have the quality and attitude to cope with whatever awaits them in the second leg – just as he believes AEK will need to be ready for Celtic Park in midweek.

He added: “The east end of Glasgow and 60,000 supporters – Celtic Park is notorious for the noise, the atmosphere and the passion that’s here in Scotland.

“These are the atmospheres we love to play in.”

 
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