Rodgers relies on fringe benefits, Gerrard on fans
Brendan Rodgers will be forced into to playing some less experienced players against RB Leipzig (pic: SNS Group)
Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers does not have his problems to seek going into the first of two potentially season-defining games in Leipzig.
The Hoops need a positive result in the Red Bull Arena this evening if they are to maintain high hopes of progressing from their group to the knockout stages.
However, they will have to do so with an under-strength team with injuries and suspensions hitting them hard.
In-form James Forrest is banned after his red card in the previous round against Salzburg, while influential trio Leigh Griffiths, Scott Brown and Tom Rogic are all sidelined by injury.
It’s the hardly the scenario Rodgers was looking for as he bids to make a mark in Group B three days before the Scottish League Cup semi-final meeting with high-flying Hearts at Murrayfield on Sunday.
“We have one or two issues but it’s OK, we have a number of young players who have been training very hard and working hard to have the opportunity to play,” said the manager, whose side sit on three points from two games.
“So we look forward to seeing them. After the last time in Salzburg – OK we lost the game but I want to see a better performance.
“It’s key coming into these games that we think about performing well. When we play to that quality and players play with confidence then we have a much greater chance of getting a result.
“It’s about going and performing and taking that confidence of going to play and not being frightened to make mistakes. We’re playing against one of the top teams in Germany but we still have to show our way of playing and when we do that we know we can cause problems.”
Sunday’s showdown in the Capital will test the double Treble winners’ powers of recovery, although their manager has no fears on that front.
He said: He said: “No matter the result tomorrow we’ll go into the game at the weekend with confidence and looking to reach another final.
“We’ve had tough midweek games in Europe over the last couple of years and no matter the result we’ve come out of that and played well.”
Steven Gerrard says the Rangers fans have a vital role to play against Spartak Moscow (pic: SNS Group)
Gerrard relies on fan power
Rangers have been the surprise packet in Group G so far, Steven Gerrard’s side sitting top of the table as they welcome Spartak Moscow to Ibrox.
The Gers have been a revelation in Europe this season but must guard against complacency as they host the managerless Russians, Massimo Carrera having been sacked at the start of the week.
Fitness coach Raul Riancho will be in the dug-out trying to inflict a first Europa League loss on the Light Blues and Gerrard said: “We’re going into the game with confidence and belief but also with respect that we are playing a big team with Champions League experience.
“They are in a false position in the league. We know they would normally be fighting it out at the top, so it does show they are inconsistent. But at the same time with the change and the new manager, we’re not going to be naive enough to think there won’t be a reaction and a better performance than what they have been showing of late.
“We have to be ready to match that. If we do, we have belief in our own qualities.”
Rangers swept aside Rapid Vienna in their last group game and Gerrard, who is without the injured Scott Arfield, wants the supporters to turn up the heat inside Ibrox, saying: “I’d like us to really take the game to the opposition. We need to ignite the crowd like we did in the previous game.
“We believe that if we play on the front foot, if we are aggressive and take the fans with us then we are a tough team to play against here.
“You try to put yourself in the shoes of the opposition manager. If your first game in charge is away at Ibrox, and if we’re at it with the crowd behind us, then that is a tricky game for your first match in charge. We need to make sure we don’t disappoint.
“We’ll try to use the crowd but I think Spartak, with all due respect, come with more experience than Rapid. They play in hostile arenas over in Russia so we realise we’re playing against a big team.
“They have individuals within their team capable of hurting us. But there are certainly areas for us to exploit and I’m looking forward to watching my team play. If we can emulate the Rapid performance and the atmosphere, then I’m really looking forward to seeing the outcome.”