Brendan Rodgers has urged his players to hold their nerve and play their own game against “superclub” Bayern in tonight’s Champions League Group B clash at the Allianz Arena.
The Scottish champions have suffered badly in the Champions League at the hands of such exacting opposition during Rodgers’ 16-month tenure. Last month’s 5-0 pasting by Paris Saint-Germain – a record home defeat – came a year on from the 7-0 thumping by Barcelona in the Nou Camp.
Celtic manager Rodgers, whose side had an outstanding 3-0 away success over Anderlecht last time out, believes his players must show more “nerve” in their efforts to upset the odds against Europe’s elite.
He said: “If you are going to lose football games, especially at this level where you are up against it in terms of the opponents, then [it is a case of] as long as you play how we play.
“Our disappointment against Barcelona and PSG at home was we didn’t quite impose our way of working. So our message is we have a duty to play how we play and that is to attack and be aggressive.
“The players have shown over the course of 16 months the improvements they are making. It takes a little bit more time at this level because of the level of opponent, but you can still go out and impose your game. We have done that in European games and this is a great opportunity for us again to show that we have that nerve to play.”
Rodgers refuses to “cry” over the fact that an onerous task will have to be undertaken with a makeshift defence once more. While he will welcome back captain Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong after three weeks out, a recurrence of a hamstring injury which has sidelined Jozo Simunovic since last month meant the 23-year-old was left at home to have a scan.
Rodgers added: “We need to find a way to help him play more consistently and when he does that he’s shown he can be a world-class player.
“The team has been very strong defensively when Jozo and Dedryck [Boyata] have played together. We saw that in the games against Anderlecht and Rangers. But it’s what we’ve had to do throughout with the unavailability of players. We have to change the structure around and get on with it.”
Rodgers hinted that Costa Rican Cristian Gamboa, who made his first start of the season in the 1-0 weekend win over Dundee, could play as part of a changed backline, with Mikael Lustig set to move inside to partner Boyata.
Rodgers said: “It’s been unfortunate for Cristian. He was away over pre-season. Tony [Ralston] came in and did really well along with Mikael, so it’s been tough for him.
“He went away with his international team and got a bit of game time and I thought he was very good against Dundee.”