Brendan Rodgers says Celtic are in ‘champion shape’

Scott Sinclair celebrates after putting Celtic 1-0 ahead after only four minutes at Celtic Park. Picture: SNS.
Scott Sinclair celebrates after putting Celtic 1-0 ahead after only four minutes at Celtic Park. Picture: SNS.
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Brendan Rodgers believes Celtic are “100 per cent” better prepared than they were last year to reach the group stage of the Champions League.

The Scottish champions defeated Linfield 4-0 at Celtic Park to wrap up a 6-0 aggregate win in their second qualifying round tie, the comprehensive nature of the success in sharp contrast to 12 months ago when they had to recover from a shock 1-0 loss to Lincoln Red Imps at the same stage.

Celtic will face Rosenborg in the next round after the Norwegian champions overcame Dundalk in extra time last night. The first leg will take place in Glasgow next Wednesday with the return in Trondheim seven days later.

“We’ve watched some of Rosenborg’s games already,” said Rodgers. “They play 4-3-3 and are midway through their season. They’ll have a good level of fitness, their structure is pretty much set. Norwegian teams are disciplined and organised but we know whoever we get won’t be easy.

“But if we want to get to where we want we have to get through these games. I’m pretty happy we can go in tactically ready and physically we’re still building up. We’re 100 per cent different to where we were this time last season.”

Celtic led 1-0 at half-time through Scott Sinclair’s fourth-minute goal, the winger netting again in the second half along with Tom Rogic and Stuart Armstrong.

“After conceding the first goal so early I was thinking ‘Oh no’, “admitted Linfield manager David Healy. “But to be fair, we got to half-time at 1-0 and regrouped – or so I thought.

“We conceded a soft second goal at the start of the second half. Celtic came out and had a right go. They had five or six forward players at times. They came out at 100 miles per hour and 4-0 was about fair.

“I patted the players on the back for their effort and discipline. We got done late on with our fitness level. The kit man has ordered chicken burgers and chips because these boys are up at 7am in the morning for work. That’s the level we are at.

“Celtic are an incredible team these days. It’s probably the best squad they have had in a long number of years. I just hope we don’t draw Celtic under-20s when we come back here in the Irn-Bru Cup this season!”