Brendan Rodgers has urged his players to maintain the high standards that caused the whole of Europe take notice of their last Champions League performance.
The Celtic manager has taken immense pride from teams such as Tottenham Hotspur adopting the high-tempo tactics deployed to such good effect by his side in the 3-3 draw with Manchester City last month.
A win at a sold-out Celtic Park against Borussia Monchengladbach this evening would boost Celtic’s chances of finishing at least third in Group C. Rodgers believes his side are still a work in progress but believes success is achieved by playing the way they want to play rather than by worrying too much about opponents.
“We are a better side now, after that [City] game, which is natural, when you make probably Europe stand up,” said Rodgers. “I think you see now the consequences of the players’ performance and what it’s done for teams in England. It’s given them an idea how to work against an incredible side like Manchester City.”
City have won neither of their league fixtures since that 3-3 draw, losing 2-0 at Spurs and then drawing 1-1 with Everton on Saturday. “They’re a great side, Manchester City, but what our players showed was their tactical idea and how they could impose themselves,” said Rodgers. “What was important for us was not just to stop Manchester City but to impose our style.
“There will come a point, wherever we are, whatever jungle we are in in the world, we will be able to impose our style and I will be happy to go to wherever it is and be happy to play our way.”
Rodgers noted Borussia’s own high-tempo game. “They’ve built their success on young players who are mobile,” he said. “But my aim is about building the team with power, speed and a high level of technical ability and a high level of unpredictability in their game, that scores goals and creates many chances and defends strongly. So there’s a way to go in terms of that.”
Meanwhile, Rodgers is staying out of the growing clamour for Leigh Griffiths to be given a start for Scotland against England next month after comments from national team manager Gordon Strachan that were interpreted as suggesting he was too short for international football.
The striker has since changed his Twitter profile to “Shorty”.
“I actually can do nothing about his growth, I can’t coach that!” said Rodgers.
“Joking aside, you never know what was said or not said. I respect Gordon, he picks his team for Scotland. I will always respect the fact he is picking what he thinks is his best team for Scotland.
“I can only comment on Leigh as the player I’ve got. It’s difficult for the kid at the moment but he has shown a great attitude.
“He is coming off the back of 40 goals and started this season great. He then gets injured and his replacement [Moussa Dembele] comes in. Unfortunately, his replacement is one of the best young strikers in European football. It’s not as if he is being kept out by someone who is not a good player. However hard it is for him, he understands it.”
Rodgers conceded Griffiths might have found it difficult to accept being kept out of the 1-1 draw with Lithuania by Fulham’s Chris Martin, who hasn’t scored for his club this season.
“It’s probably hard for him that, say, someone who maybe hadn’t scored for so many games – not that he has said it – is up front for his national team.
“Then there is someone like him who is a natural goalscorer. But in my conversations with Leigh before about the national team, he really enjoys working with Gordon. He really respects him and he will continue to go there [to Scotland].”