Brendan Rodgers welcomes ‘great Europa League tie’ against Valencia

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers led his side to the knockout stages of the 2018/19 Europa League. Picture: SNS Group
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers led his side to the knockout stages of the 2018/19 Europa League. Picture: SNS Group
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Celtic have been drawn to play Valencia of Spain in the Europa League Round of 32.

The first leg will be played on February 14 with the second leg taking place on February 21. The first leg will take place at Celtic Park, with the return leg at the Mestalla a week later.

The Hoops finished second in Europa League Group B, winning three and losing three, and advancing thanks to Rosenborg’s unexpected draw with RB Leipzig in January on the final matchday.

The two teams last met in the 2001/02 UEFA Cup, when Valencia - managed at the time by Rafa Benitez - defeated Celtic 5-4 on penalties in the third round.

Brendan Rodgers believes a “fresher and stronger” Celtic can upset the odds and defeat Los Che in the last 32 of the Europa League in February.

The Scottish champions’ manager welcomed the outcome of the draw in Nyon, regarding the tie against the Spanish club as both attractive for Celtic supporters and winnable for his players.

Valencia have been immediately installed as the bookies’ favourites to progress, despite currently sitting 14th in La Liga table after winning just three and drawing ten of their first 16 games of the season.

Rodgers insists those statistics present a misleading impression of a side who dropped into the Europa League after finishing third in their Champions League group behind Juventus and Manchester United.

He anticipates a major test for Celtic, who will be at home for the first leg on 14 February with the return fixture seven days later in Valencia’s imposing Mestalla Stadium.

But Rodgers is confident Celtic will be both revitalised and reinforced after next month’s winter break and transfer window, allowing them to approach the tie with the belief they can progress to the last 16 of the tournament.

“Absolutely, that will be our mentality going into the game over the two legs,” said Rodgers.

“By the time it comes around, we will be fresher and stronger as a squad. It’s a great tie for us. Valencia are one of the great clubs in Spain. They are very good technically and tactically, so it will be a very good test for us.

“It is good to play at home in the first game. We would want to go to the Mestalla with some sort of advantage. The second leg will be tough.”

As well as seeking new signings in January, Rodgers is also banking on a reduction to his current list of injured players over the coming few weeks.