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Brendan Rodgers buoyed for the future despite Celtic’s European hopes being dashed

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers applauds the supporters at full time (SNS Group / Rob Casey)
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers applauds the supporters at full time (SNS Group / Rob Casey)

BOSS Brendan Rodgers remains optimistic about Celtic’s future in Europe despite this season’s interest ending with the 2-0 home defeat to Barcelona on Wednesday night.

Lionel Messi, who scored a hat-trick in the 7-0 home win over the Hoops in the opening Champions League Group C fixture, bagged a double, the first from close range and the second from the spot, to ensure the visitors progressed into the knockout stages as group winners.

Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates scoring the opener (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates scoring the opener (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The Scottish champions remain bottom of the pool with two points gained from draws with Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach and travel to the Etihad Stadium next month for the final fixture unable to finish third for a Europa League spot.

Sitting clear at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership, however, Celtic are odds-on to qualify for another shot at the Champions League next season and Rodgers insists they will be better prepared.

He said: “We know the level now and it gets better every year.

“We’ve now got to go on, make sure we get into it next year and each year the club is in it, it improves on and off the field and that is our ambition.

Emilio Izaguirre fouls Luis Suarez to concede a penalty for Celtic (SNS Group / Craig Foy)
Emilio Izaguirre fouls Luis Suarez to concede a penalty for Celtic (SNS Group / Craig Foy)

“First and foremost for us it was about getting into the Champions League.

“The club had a period of time not qualifying so we had a huge effort in the summer over the course of the pre-season to qualify.

“This experience, though still with one game to go, was always going to be invaluable for us with lots of young players who will improve.

“If you look at the first game compared to now, we weren’t fearful.

“It’s just about maintaining that standard and that’s down to your demands every day in training.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi converts the penalty (SNS Group / Craig Foy)
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi converts the penalty (SNS Group / Craig Foy)

“We have played three of the best teams in Europe over the course of this competition so far and we have gradually got better in each game, so the challenge is after Christmas we’ve got to keep the demand.”

Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano described the visitors’ performance as “beautiful” as he looked forward to the knockout stages.

He told uefa.com: “We came with the objective of guaranteeing qualification and topping the group and we’ve achieved that.

“We produced a serious game and made lots more chances.”


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