All change as Celtic eye route to winning away-day in Europe

Celtic's Erik Sviatchenko during training at Lennoxtown ahead of the club flying out for their vital Champions League clash against Borussia Monchengladbach.Celtic's Erik Sviatchenko during training at Lennoxtown ahead of the club flying out for their vital Champions League clash against Borussia Monchengladbach.
Celtic's Erik Sviatchenko during training at Lennoxtown ahead of the club flying out for their vital Champions League clash against Borussia Monchengladbach.
In seeking a cure for the chronic travel sickness which has now plagued Celtic for 15 years in the Champions League, it seems any possible measure will be considered by Brendan Rodgers.

The Scottish champions’ preparations for tonight’s crucial fixture against Borussia Monchengladbach have certainly been a little bit different.

For a start, Celtic are not even staying in the country where the game is being played – the plush chateau hotel they checked into at around 5.30pm local time yesterday is just across the German border in the Dutch town of Tegelen.

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Rodgers’ decision to also forego the traditional training session at the hosts’ stadium on the eve of the match, instead choosing to have a session at home in Lennoxtown before a later departure from Glasgow, was part of an on-going effort to buck the dismal trend of Celtic’s experiences on the road in the competition.

Since Martin O’Neill first led them beyond the qualifiers back in 2001, Celtic have lost 23 of the 25 away games they have played in the group stage of the Champions League.

If Rodgers, pictured, is to succeed in his ambition of establishing Celtic as regular contenders in the knockout phase of Europe’s elite competition, it is an issue 
he simply has to address 
successfully. He said: “We are just looking to see if there are different ways to prepare and things we can do which are maybe different to what Celtic have done before.

Rodgers, who found himself on the end of the club’s heaviest-ever European loss when they were humbled 7-0 by Barcelona in his first group stage fixture as manager, added: “Primarily, the turnaround from domestic games to European games has given us little time to prepare so far, especially for the Tuesday night fixtures in the Champions League.

“For Barcelona, we played on the Saturday, recovered on the Sunday, then trained in the Nou Camp on the Monday. You can’t prepare your team tactically in any way.

“So doing it this way at least gave us an opportunity, even though it was just an active recovery session at Lennoxtown after the weekend game at Pittodrie, to talk through things tactically.

“We did some elements of play that the players could see on the field and then arrived over here at our hotel, knowing our work was complete and ready for the game. In terms of the away record in this competition, it is just about time at this level and more time working with the players. You can’t buy that time. It’s just an on-going process and the competition this year for us is a building block.

“We go into each game looking to win it and to perform well, of course, but underlying that there are many players getting big experience. That is going to really help us in the future and to take into domestic football and to allow us to grow even more.

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“Whatever happens this year in Europe, we will be a better team and squad and that is the beauty of how I like to work and develop players. The experiences they are gaining just now will give them that belief.”

“We also have to get to a level where we can cope with the scheduling, from domestic to Champions League games. That is why we will be even better in the coming years because the players will be even more in tune with our methods and our ways of working.”

Having picked up just one point from their first three games in Group C this season – that earned from the thrilling 3-3 draw at home to Manchester City – Celtic must at least avoid defeat at Borussia Park tonight if they are to retain any realistic hopes of extending their involvement in Europe beyond the turn of the year.

The evidence of Borussia’s
convincing and fully merited 2-0 win at Celtic Park two weeks ago suggests turning the tables here is a task beyond the current capabilities of Rodgers’ men. But some encouragement is provided by the German side’s domestic form which has seen them fail to score in all four of their Bundesliga fixtures during what the local press described as “Grey October”.

While Rodgers, right, was keen to stress his longer-term hopes for Celtic in Europe during last night’s media briefing, he has not yet given up hope of the current campaign bringing further progress.

“I was disappointed we didn’t win at home to Manchester City, because that was a great performance,” he said. “We have to close a game like that out, despite City’s quality. The home game against Borussia was disappointing, because it was the least effective we have been.

“So the next three games in the group are all tough, but we can win them. One thing I’ve learned in football is that the impossible can become possible.

“Realistically, we go into all of them as underdogs and the only way to challenge that is to produce our ‘A’ game tactically, cut out the mistakes and have concentration of the highest level we can. Borussia produced a high level of performance at Celtic Park, because everything was on them to get that result in the group. There’s no reason why we can’t come here and do likewise. If we get a good result on Tuesday night, it still gives us an opportunity in the final group games and that will be the message from me.”