Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has promised his team will “have a go” in their demanding Champions League programme and believes the “Celtic Park experience” gives them a chance of progressing in Europe.
Rodgers aims to be “super-competitive” despite admitting the combination of Barcelona, Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach was possibly the most difficult draw available.
Barca are one of the many giants of European football to have discovered that Celtic Park is not an easy venue - they lost on their penultimate visit in 2012 - and Rodgers feels empowered by the atmosphere Hoops fans are able to create.
“The home games, whoever we play, are going to be really exciting in particular, because of the level of support that we have,” Rodgers said.
“I saw some quotes from the last time Lionel Messi was over here, he talked about it being the best atmosphere he had ever played in.
“Our aims are to be as competitive as we possibly can. There is no doubt we have earned the right to be here. I think everyone recognises it’s an extremely tough group. You have arguably got the top teams from each of the pots all in one group. But our aim, like always, is to have a go. The games can’t come quickly enough and we will aim to be super-competitive.”
The list of teams who have lost in Champions League games at Celtic Park includes AC Milan, Manchester United, Benfica, Lyon, Porto, Juventus and Ajax.
Rodgers said: “The supporters will always give us a chance to progress. My experience in cup competitions is that your home games are vital for you. Notoriously difficult away from home, and Celtic, long before my time here, it’s always been difficult away from home.
“But if you can get results in your home games and make it as difficult as you possibly can, and with the crowd that will always give us possibilities. Then, you see where it takes you.
“But we are not in the group just to make up the numbers. We know the teams we are up against are huge teams, especially Barcelona and Manchester City, and Borussia Monchengladbach are a team that’s really progressing in the last few years. So we understand the competition but it doesn’t stop us fighting to do the very best we can.”
The former Liverpool manager feels the experience will help him and his players become better at their jobs.
“I’m looking forward to the coaching experience and I’m sure the players are looking forward to playing against really good players, because in these type of games you become a better footballer,” he said.
“You will always learn something from the game.
“I was talking to Danny McGrain the other day about his experiences. Danny was obviously an incredible player and a wonderful captain and played lots of games in Scotland, but his first times when he stepped into European football, the winger he was playing against made a move that he hadn’t seen before. So that helped him become a better full-back.
“For our young players, Kieran Tierney, it’s no different. He’ll be working against players that will offer him different challenges. He can embrace that as real positive learning.”
On the coaching opportunity, Rodgers said: “We know it’s going to be a really special atmosphere at Celtic Park, and I’m sure the three teams will know the Celtic Park experience won’t make it easy for them. And, for us, away from home, can we build a strategy that allows us to get points?”
Celtic open their campaign in the Nou Camp on September 13 but they have two important Ladbrokes Premiership fixtures before then, with Rangers visiting three days earlier and firstly, Aberdeen on Saturday.
“It’s a very big game,” Rodgers said. “We expect a very tough game. For the majority of last season they were the big challengers. Derek (McInnes) has done very, very well since he’s come back up here.
“They are very well organised, they have a threat and they work very, very hard. But we are playing at home, we have good intensity in the team, and the focus is very good in the team at the moment.”