Celtic vs Zenit - Rodgers: Celtic underdogs against Zenit St Petersburg



Posted Thursday, February 15, 2018 by PA

Celtic vs Zenit - Rodgers: Celtic underdogs against Zenit St Petersburg

Boss Brendan Rodgers claims Celtic would upset the odds by knocking Zenit St Petersburg out of the Europa League.

Celtic take on the big-spending Russian side in the first leg of their last-32 clash at Parkhead on Thursday night with the return game a week later.

Zenit won five and drew one of their six Europa League group games to reach the knockout stages whereas the Scottish champions dropped down from the Champions League by finishing third behind European superpowers Paris St Germain and Bayern Munich with just one win in six.

“In terms of the standings of both teams across Europe, it would be fair to say that they would obviously be favourites,” said Rodgers.

“People within football will probably look at it and see Zenit as the team who would be favourites to go through.

“We have to be realistic as always.

“We know where we stand in relation to some of the superpowers and finances at this level.

“There are some great teams in the Europa League and the nature of the competition means it is very difficult for us, and like the Champions League, we are going to be tested to the limits in terms of where we are at in comparison to the other teams.

“But it is a really exciting challenge.

“We have got our reward by getting through the group stage and hopefully we can perform very well and get a result.”

Tom Rogic’s hopes of returning to action appear to have been dashed.

The playmaker, who has missed the last two months with a knee injury, was looking to prove his fitness in an under-20s clash on Monday but the game was called off.

Centre-back Dedryck Boyata remains out with groin trouble and joins Craig Gordon (knee), Leigh Griffiths (calf), Marvin Compper (calf strain), Jonny Hayes (broken leg), Anthony Ralston (knee), Stuart Armstrong (hernia operation) and Patrick Roberts (hamstring) on the sidelines.

Zenit St Petersburg boss Roberto Mancini is refusing to rule former Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic out of the clash.

The 33-year-old Serbia international was expected to miss the game because of an eye injury.

But Mancini has left the door open for the former Stanford Bridge star to feature.

“He has a problem with his eye but he is getting better, although he is not 100 per cent yet,” said the former Manchester City manager after arriving at Parkhead, where Ivanovic joined the rest of his team-mates for a training session.

“With his experience he is important to us.

“Maybe he can play or go on the bench. We will decide tomorrow.”

While Zenit are the tournament’s top scorers with 17 goals, Celtic struggled to keep their rivals at bay as they shipped 18 goals in just six matches in the Champions League – including a dozen to PSG alone.

But Mancini is refusing to look too closely at those painful results against two of Europe’s biggest superpowers.

The Italian – whose side are returning to action after a two month winter break – said: “It is always a difficult game in Glasgow. Celtic at home are a very tough team.

“The supporters always push the team. It is incredible.

“Celtic played in a difficult group. I think most teams would lose to PSG and Bayern. It was a tough group and they will be better in the Europa League.

“We can have a problem as it is the first game after a two-month break. That is the situation and we need to be at our best to reach the next round.”

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