BRENDAN RODGERS reckons his Celtic squad have returned from the summer break in better condition than the last two seasons.

The Hoops will fly out to Austria on Monday for a 10-day training camp which will include three friendly fixtures.

The games will help the seven-in-a-row title holders build their match fitness ahead of the trip to Armenia to face Alashkert in the first qualifying round of the Champions League on July 10.

Rodgers said: “It was important that a lot of the players got a good rest. Not all of them are back as there are some still away on international duty.

“The players had nearly four weeks off which is very important. When you play the number of games that we play it’s absolutely critical you come out the battle and have the rest. The players have done that, come back and this is the fittest they’ve come back.

“This is my third pre-season now and, in terms of where they’re at, they’ve come back very fit. In these opening few days they’ve shown a great level of fitness and that helps.”

The manager is anticipating a difficult test against the Armenians, but he believes the fitness levels of the players will ensure they are in the best position to progress.

He added: “There’s a beauty of the Champions League phase in that you know you’re into the competitive games fairly quickly and this is now my third experience of that so that’s good.

“The opening period for the season is about qualification, but, in terms of our objectives, we’re looking to develop our physical and football fitness. That’s still key and the players have come back with a really good base which I’m very happy with.

“We’ll be looking to develop that over the next few weeks so that when the games come we’re at a really good level. The group look fit, they look strong and we’ve got players coming back. I would hope we’ll be in a really good position with the squad.”

* Rodgers was speaking to CelticTV.

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