CELTIC have earned the plaudits now Brendan Rodgers is demanding the points.
The Hoops have been acclaimed for their endeavours in the Champions League this season with many shrewd observers insisting they deserve more than a solitary point after three games in the competitive Group E.
Nine-man Celts, with Gustaf Lagerbielke and Odin Hom dismissed before the 70th minute against Feyenoord, went down 2-0 in Rotterdam in the section opener.
A sickening goal in the seventh minute of stoppage-time from Pedro left the hosts empty-handed as a relieved Lazio returned to Rome with an unlikely three points.
Rodgers again saw his players perform at a high level against Atletico Madrid, but were forced to share four goals and the loss of of their eighth point from a trio of compelling confrontations.
The Parkhead men return to the elite arena against the La Liga aces at the Metropolitano this evening in search of that elusive first victory to revive hopes of European football in the new year.
Even the Spanish side’s sullen and moody head coach Diego Simeone has praised the Hoops following the encounter in Glasgow 13 days ago. High praise, indeed.
Preparing for a hectic duel in the Spanish capital, Rodgers said: “The cynics will probably tell us we only have one point, but for a club and a team like ourselves it’s all about improving that level of confidence – and that will come through performance.
“We maybe haven’t had quite the level of results and points on the board, especially in the last two games, that we deserve, but we are very happy with the performance levels.
“I think we played well in the three games. As each game has gone on, the level of performance has been better.
“Hopefully, in the next three games in the group we can get what we deserve from the games.
“Our level has increasingly got better, our confidence has got better and, hopefully, we can turn that into points.”
Rodgers feels the team’s ability to switch from their tried and trusted 4-3-3 formation to a back three in the second-half in the previous meeting with tonight’s opponents displayed impressive flexibility that they will surely require on this occasion.
Just after the hour mark at Parkhead, the Hoops chief surprised everyone by taking off Luis Palma, scorer of the second goal against the Spaniards, and putting on central defender Nat Phillips in his place.
The switch worked with the Liverpool loanee settling in well alongside Cameron Carter-Vickers and Liam Scales to allow Alistair Johnston and Greg Taylor to push a bit further forward to help out their midfielders at a stage the visitors were attempting to assume control.
Rodgers, speaking to Sky Sports, added: “It doesn’t take away from our style, we always want to be a team that is aggressive and looks to play the way we want to play no matter the system.
“That adaptability is important so I was really pleased with that in the first game, but also our style in terms of looking to impose ourselves on the game.
“Listen, we know we are playing away from home against a very good side with top-quality players, but it’s important for us to not wait in the game.
“We want to go and impose our style on the game, but we also know we are going to have to defend and defend well at times against a very good side.
“For us, the notion is to look to play our game, to make a fast start in the game, and when the challenges come, which they will do, then we look to defend really strongly as a team to combat that.”
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